2004

Open letter from Haris, Salfit from the International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS)

It has been an eventful month in the district where the least happens in Occupied Palestine

Mid-March to mid-April 2004

There is little in Western media about the daily lives of Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank, particularly these communities next to the Green Line.

Army activity:

Picture night raids by the army, with harmless villagers forced to stand outside in the cold, the father forced to strip down to his underwear, blankets for warmth denied to the small children, the mother 8-months pregnant.[1]

Frequent army incursions and soldiers, from the safety of their army vehicles, throwing sound bombs and tear gas, especially into schoolyards, for no legitimate reason.  When asked, they give the standard reply that children were throwing stones. When settlers shoot into the village using live ammunition, we do not hear of army raids into settlements meting out the same treatment to settlers.

Curfews are declared at 3 in the morning with an army jeep going around announcing it from a loudspeaker. There have been army raids in the middle of the night, with people’s property trashed or the people forced to put their belongings out on the street, hundreds of litres of oil tipped over and then flour tipped on top.[2] Why? The army says it is looking for a member of the family.

Settler violence:

Man shot with live ammunition by a settler.[3] Armed settlers set fire and caused damage to schools in Sawiya and Luban.[4] In Yasouf a group of armed settlers with dogs threw stones at residents and entered the village to go to the village’s water source.[5] Villagers have years of experience in filing complaints at the police station in Ari’el, with no success, and so now they do not try.

Basic freedoms denied:

Freedom of movement is a system of permits, closures, curfews, and checkpoints. Result is that goods cost more, the sick have great difficulty getting to hospital, children never know if they can get to school or university.

Travel to get to work, if you are fortunate enough to have work, is difficult and expensive.  A bus ride to Nablus from the village of Rafat used to cost 3 shekels and there was a bus service.  Now there is no service and it costs 40 shekels to get to Nablus, if you are allowed in at the checkpoint in Huwarra.

ID’s are confiscated at checkpoints, held for hours, causing anxiety and inconvenience to the traveller. IWPS received a late night call from a villager living in Beita asking for help in getting home because his ID had not been returned.  Upon enquiry, we were told that there was nothing wrong with his ID, but because the police had held it for so long, it was too late to travel safely.  So he was forced to stay in the police station all night.

Freedom of expression:

A peaceful demonstration against the planned confiscation of more Palestinian land, this time under the guise of the “security fence”, elicited a curfew being declared in the village of Az Zawiya the day before the march.

Israelis were prevented from attending the demonstration, a democratic right denied them by “the only democracy in the Middle East”.  Most were not allowed through the checkpoint along the Green Line.  The army declared the area a “closed military zone”, all the while allowing settlers to travel freely along roads made for their benefit.

Economic hardship:

In Ramallah, which used to be a market for produce from the West Bank, all the fresh fruits and vegetables are now brought in from Israel.  Garlic from one Salfit village used to be sold in Ramallah for 80 shekels per kg, according to one farmer, now it sells for 2 shekels per kg in the local area.  The same village used to earn 27.5 shekels for a kilogram of oil, now they get around 10 shekels per kilogram of oil.

Many people have not been able to pay their water and electricity bills for months, if not years.  Some people have no electricity.  Others have municipalities who pay the bills, taking a loan from the bank, and allowing the villagers to pay when they can.  A water source deep in the West Bank has been controlled by Israel since 1982.  Water that used to be free to Palestinians is now sold to them at 3 or 3.5 shekels per cubic meter, too expensive for them to irrigate crops. Settlers pay only 8 agorot per cubic meter, 37.5 times less than Palestinians.  Further, settlers use six times more water than Palestinians.[6]

Unemployment has soared and can be anywhere between 60% and 90%.

Long-term effects:

Pollution created by the hilltop settlements, e.g. Ari’el, Immanuel and Barqan with their raw sewage allowed to flow into water sources, now completely contaminated and unusable, with even grazing animals affected.

Most recent developments:

The wall, entailing more land confiscation and pressure to leave:

The wall will soon come to this area, some village have already received notices of confiscation. In places where the wall is finished, the residents are being forced to apply for permits to stay in their own homes.  These permits are not easy to obtain and have to be constantly renewed.[7] The pressure on these families to leave their homes and lands is immense.  Already many who work in Ramallah and unable to face the long waits at checkpoints and uncertainty whether they can reach their place of work, have opted to stay most of the week in Ramallah and come only for one day a week to their villages.  Others have moved away altogether and gone to live in Jordan, a form of voluntary transfer.

This is a picture of what is happening in just one month, in just one small part of the West Bank, indeed in the part that is least affected by army killings and destruction.  There is no security for Palestinians, their lives are under the control of Israel, decisions are arbitrary, they can not feel safe even in their own houses and their future is one of dispossession and penury.

The arguments that we hear constantly in the media are of terrorism and suicide bombers, and the Israeli state responding.  The reality is that ‘normal’ life for a Palestinian is completely arbitrary and controlled by the Israelis.

Israelis are not being terrorized on a daily basis by young soldiers with guns, coming in and out of their villages at will. Most villages we work in suffer these army incursions nearly every day.

Concerned citizens can contact their members of parliament or congress persons and ask that their governments intervene to ensure that international law is respected and these human rights abuses are properly addressed.

Write to  iwps@palnet.com or phone us: 09 251 6644 (for international calls: +972 (0)9 251 6644


[1] IWPS HRR (Human Rights Report) 101

[2] IWPS HRR 102, 105

[3] IWPS HRR 96

[4] IWPS HRR 98

[5] IWPS HRR 100

[6] http://www.btselem.org/English/Special/020801_Water.asp

[7] IWPS article no. 55 at http://www.womenspeacepalestine.org/iwpsreports.htm

IWPS House Report No. 50
January 2004

“We can do it”the grassroots struggle of the people of Budrus against the Apartheid Wall

Budrus is a small village of 1200 people in West Ramallah, three kilometres from the green line. The Apartheid Wall’s bulldozers reached Budrus village three months ago, having already cut a swathe through the land of Qibbya, the neighbouring village. In 1953, Ariel Sharon led a massacre of 60 people in Qibbya and the site of the massacre is still visible today.

The intention of the Apartheid Wall in this area is threefold: to separate Budrus and Qibbya and their neighbouring villages, Nihilin and Medea, from all of their land; enclose them in their own separate wall which looks like a circular prison; and to ensure that there is no way for any resident to reach Ramallah, the only place where the villagers can access hospitals, universities and places of work.

Budrus village formed a Popular Committee to fight the Apartheid Wall. The Committee says there was no way to fight the Wall in court because they were given military orders that their land was to be confiscated and they should appeal to the courts within 14 days, but the next day the bulldozers began working!

Until now, the wall has not become a reality in Budrus. For the past three months, every able-bodied person in Budrus has been taking to the olive grove of 30 trees which is first in line for bulldozing, and using non-violent direct action to stop the bulldozers every time they start working. The Popular Committee has convened big demonstrations in the olive grove even when the bulldozers were not working. Unlike other villages, the aim of the people of Budrus is clear: to stop the Apartheid Wall! The village says their secret is that everyone is united against the Wall and works together, no matter what their party affiliation. Because of their united strength, the village has defied every curfew declared by the Israeli Occupation Forces in order to continue the non-violent resistance.

Recently, however, the Apartheid Wall company’s bulldozers have been backed up by much more military might and the police have started making midnight raids into the village to arrest Popular Committee activists and even young boys. There has been a concerted attack on Budrus village’s non-violent resistance.

This began on the morning of December 30th, 2003 when a bulldozer headed for the grove most under threat. As soon as the villagers saw what was happening, a call went out from the mosque that the olive trees were being cut! Five international and Israeli activists camping in a school under threat of demolition in nearby Deir Ballut village had luckily slept in Budrus the night before. Together with Palestinian activists from the Budrus Popular Committee against the Apartheid Wall, we rushed down the hill to the olive groves only to be met by soldiers coming up with a paper declaring the area a closed military zone and blocking our way. We were perplexed when a Palestinian activist said we should all return to the village centre. On the way we heard another call go out from the mosque and everything became clear when we suddenly saw hundreds of women, girls, men and boys marching directly at the olive grove. Children who had rushed out of their classrooms were still clutching their schoolbooks.

At this moment, one of the most well loved activists in the village, Abu Ahmad shouted “We can do it! We can do it!” The villagers broke up into three groups and started running down the hill towards the bulldozers.

The soldiers immediately started firing tens of teargas canisters at the different groups, before opening fire just minutes later with numerous volleys of rubber bullets. When groups of small girls were gassed, they took only seconds to recover their breath before marching forward again down the hill. Many people were hit in the legs, head, and arms and immediately carried off the hill to the waiting ambulance. All the time, more soldiers were arriving and making their way up the hill. At one point, the Palestinians and soldiers met three quarters of the way down the hill. Although the bulldozer was relatively close now, it seemed that it would be impossible for us to break through the line of heavily armed soldiers and get to the olive grove.

The sudden arrival of three television crews startled the soldiers. In that moment, a very old woman broke through the line and ran at the bulldozer. Different groups started getting around the soldiers. The soldiers recovered their composure speedily and began firing teargas canisters directly at people but by this time the elderly woman had thrown herself into the hole being dug by the bulldozer. A tiny girl jumped into the bulldozer’s scooper as it came down to meet the earth and nonchalantly started reading her school book. Other girls started climbing all over the bulldozer and the driver turned off the engine.

That day was victorious for the people of Budrus. Although some trees had been destroyed, others were saved. And in the face of massive amounts of teargas and rubber bullets, they had advanced down the hill armed with nothing but songs of freedom, forcing the soldiers and the bulldozer to retreat. When the people reached the olive groves and the soldiers were pushed back to where their jeeps were parked, it was the small girls who faced off against the soldiers for the next three hours singing “Free, Free Palestine!” When the soldiers finally got into their jeeps and drove off, the entire village celebrated.

This scene has replayed itself over the past three weeks but with different results. During the past three weeks, the Wall Company has tried seven times to cut more olive trees. All seven attempts have been defeated by the people of Budrus. Four times the people succeeded in forcing the army out of the groves as they did on December 30th, but on three occasions the army attacked with over 200 soldiers, and forced the people back into the village. On these days, dozens of people were taken to hospital with injuries and soldiers opened fire on groups of children with live bullets, before occupying houses closest to the main road and beating the women and children inside. But even these times, the bulldozer felt too insecure to uproot more trees.

At one point, the army declared the entire village a closed military zone. This did not stop the demonstrations from continuing. The village hit the world headlines when a Swedish Member of Parliament, Gustav Fridolin, was arrested for participating in the demonstrations. Last week, the Israeli Occupation Forces arrested Abu Ahmad and his brothers Na’eem and Abdelnasir bringing the total number of political prisoners in the village to 10 people. Abu Ahmad and Na’eem were snatched from their beds at 2am in the morning. Since they were snatched, the Israeli regime has been playing cat and mouse with their lawyers and supporters who have phoned the Ofer prison where they are being held. These supporters include Israeli Knesset member Ran Cohen who phoned the prison to protest their arrest and was told they had been released. At this stage it is feared that they are going to be held indefinitely in administrative detention. Abdelnasir has been charged with “allowing internationals to stay in his home”. The charge of housing internationals was non-existent until now and only serves to expose Israel’s intention to smash any non-violent resistance to any of its policies.

A permanent international presence has been set up in Budrus. Last week the internationals, along with Israeli Anarchists against the Wall and the Popular Committee went to meet the farmers of Nihilin. This village will lose 90% of its land to the Apartheid Wall and they were told on January 7th that bulldozing would start 14 days from then. In the run up to the International Court of Justice hearing on the Apartheid Wall in the Hague which begins in late February, bulldozers all over Palestine are working fast and furious to speed up the building of the wall, and giant 25 foot concrete slabs are being erected daily. So far, the village of Budrus, although shot, gassed, beaten, arrested and terrorised by the Israeli Occupation Forces, has managed to stop the Apartheid Wall’s trail of destruction through the Ramallah district.

IWPS House Report No. 51, 6th February 2004

The one family Bantustan in Mas’ha one year into its residents’ demise

Hani unlocks a tiny gate embedded between an alarmed fence and an eight metre high concrete wall, and ushers the Danish television crew across a military road and quickly into his home. Two Canadian farmers, and three activists from Germany, South Africa and France are already seated inside, having come to interview Hani and Munira Amer on “life in the one-family Bantustan”, as their home has become known since Israel built the Apartheid Wall and three fences around it. Hani says that since today is the anniversary of the main catastrophe to befall his family, he wants to tell us about his life from the beginning.

He starts in 1948, when Palestine was first occupied by the Zionist forces that set up the state of Israel. His family fled their home in Kufr Kasem, a town annexed by Israel. (Kufr Kasem residents came under attack again and again in the years that followed. On 29 October 1956, Israeli Border guards massacred 49 villagers, including seven children and nine women, after changing the daily curfew starting at 6pm to 5pm and then killing the latecomers.)

Hani’s grandfather was killed by the Israeli army during their flight in 1948, and the family arrived as refugees in Mas’ha village, about ten kilometres away. Without a breadwinner they lived under the trees for ten years until they built a house.

In 1972, Hani built his own home in Mas’ha. For the 32 years since then, he lived “as usual” (under military occupation like any other Palestinian). He got a job managing the irrigation of the land of the Palestinian village Azzun Atma, 10 minutes away. He and Munira had four children and in the late nineties, they established a nursery at home, growing and selling olive and citrus saplings, grape vines, flowers, fertilisers and decorative trees.

Hani and Munira’s house is the farthest west in Mas’ha. When Elkana settlement was built in the 1980’s, it stole Mas’ha land up to within 20 metres of the Amer’s front door.

Hani and Munira say that the occupation, the land theft, and the settlement were “small sufferings” compared to the “main catastrophe” which began exactly one year ago today – on February 6th, 2003. High ranking soldiers from the Israeli army arrived at the Amer house. They said the family had two choices: to allow their house to be demolished so that the Apartheid Wall could be built, or to stay in their house and have the wall built on one side between it and Mas’ha. The house would be totally isolated from Mas’ha and fall alone on the settler side of the Wall. Yet they would not be allowed into the settlement as Palestinians. Instead the other three sides of their house would be fenced in. “You have no third choice” said the soldiers.

They started to offer Hani money to move out of his house but he said “in my eyes, this land will cost you the combined national budgets of America and Israel and even then I might not agree to sell it.”

Four months later, the soldiers said they would build the Apartheid Wall on the other side of the house, next to the settlement. The Amer house would remain in Mas’ha village. A little while later, this decision had been reversed. The soldiers arrived with a map and said they would separate the family from the village after all, because the settlers had protested. “It is up to you if you prefer to remain or to leave,” they said. Yet another group of soldiers arrived after this. They told Hani to leave the house for four years and then return. They did not explain this absurd request.

One day the whole family was visiting in Mas’ha. When they went home they found 30 Israeli soldiers surrounding their house. The soldiers said there was a military order that declared the house to be other side of the “border”, in Israel. The Amers were not allowed back for 15 days. When they finally returned, they found the olive and citrus saplings, grape vines, flowers, fertilisers and decorative trees all destroyed – a loss of tens of thousands of dollars. It was 1948 all over again.

The Amer family sank what remained of their savings into a poultry farm in Azzun Atma. “Each chicken cost eight dollars. I bought 3000 chickens, water tanks, an electricity generator, and paid for the building,” said Hani. After the wall was built he was rarely allowed out of the house and had to sell the farm because he couldn’t take care of the chickens every day. He lost a lot of money because since the second intifada started, Israel has slashed jobs for Palestinians, who don’t have spare cash to buy poultry farms.

Hani also used to keep 15 goats and sheep. “They weren’t for business but just because I liked them,” he says. He sold them all, again at low prices, because the sheep pen was demolished in July 2003 and in any case he knew he would not be able to take them out through the gates to graze.

“Our main catastrophe came after the wall was built. We are now suffering deeply. We are under psychological pressure from the wall and the terrorism of settlers who throw stones in the night,” says Hani. Two weeks ago, 20 settler men came inside the gate at 1:30am in the morning, smashing the water tank, solar panels and windows with rocks. The Amer children have been stoned several times by settlers while playing. The front gate between the Amer house and Elkana settlement is the only one which is always unlocked, allowing Israeli settlers free access to the vulnerable Palestinian family, who could not escape out of the other gate into Mas’ha since it is kept locked by the soldiers. The so-called “security fence” in Mas’ha in fact impounds the “terrorists” (the Amer family) in the same area as the very Israeli settlers who claim to need protection from Palestinians.

After the stoning of the house, Israel’s Channel 1 television station came to interview the Amers and produced a show comparing the Amer’s life to life in a prison or ghetto. Three days later, the high ranking officers were back. They asked the Amers how they dared talk against the Israeli army on Israeli TV. They told the Amer family that they could not want for more than their own gate to Mas’ha village. “What use is the gate if you lock us in or out when you please and prevent my family and visitors from coming to my house?” asked Munira. The soldiers then finally handed over the key to the gate, seven months after it had been built, but added that if they saw any more journalists or visitors of any kind coming to the house, they would demolish it.

After losing the flowers, the plants, the vines, the olive and citrus trees, the sheep and the goats, and the chickens and the eggs, Hani is about to lose his job. Because of the fence and the wall and the gates, he can’t get to work in Azzun Atma on time. The ten minute journey became a one to two hour journey. This makes life difficult for the Palestinian farmers who need to irrigate their land regularly. Hani said since he knows the importance of water to farmers, he would agree if they want to replace him.

Thus, Hani, Munira and their four children have lost everything. Very soon they will have no way to sustain themselves. Munira is suffering from stress. She is alone all day in the house while Hani is at work and the children are at school. She cannot leave the house unguarded and go to the Women’s Club or anywhere else, because she fears settlers or soldiers will occupy it. At the same time she feels ill-equipped, walled away from her neighbours, with nobody to call for help, to protect the house alone against another possible attack by 20 settler men.

Hani blames “Bush, Sharon, the Palestinian Authority and the Arab States” for their situation. “I have never seen a leader from the Palestinian Authority in any of these villages,” he says. “They did nothing to support us farmers against the Wall. I want to address President Yasser Arafat through you. He calls us terrorists for resisting the Israeli Occupation. Does he think now I’ve lost my land that I can emigrate to Canada or Europe? The mother of all tragedies is that Israeli activists and the people of the world know my case and support me while Yasser Arafat, my own President, is against me.”

While the family’s situation is as desperate as it gets, they have vowed never to give in to the Israeli Occupation Forces. On the occasion of the first anniversary of their “main catastrophe”, they dictated this message to the world: “Today there’s a lot of injustice. All world leaders are practising injustice. Bush represents injustice. This can’t continue. It will have to come to an end. We are simple people and we are proud that as simple people we can stand up to the Israeli army. We have never felt weak although our  situation wants to weaken us. We are standing against injustice and this gives us a lot of strength. We call on every person in the world not to succumb, and to fight injustice, wherever it is.”

Text by Anna, photos by Fatima

Copyright © 2004 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission

IWPS House Report No. 52:

9th March 2004

Occupied Salfit: living in the stench of settlers’ sewage and in the shadow of the Apartheid Wall

Salfit is a region of the Occupied West Bank which has been plagued by land confiscation and water theft for many years. 65% of all West Bank settlers live in 19 settlements in the region, which has only 20 Palestinian villages. 45% of Salfit’s historic land has been confiscated over the years to build settlements (170 000 out of 270 000 dunums). For example, after the signing of the Oslo Accords, Revava settlement was enlarged 300%.

The economic situation of Salfit villagers is dire. There is no work in the villages or in Salfit town and only 2% of people have work in Israel. The olive harvest is disrupted by settlers year after year. This year, the Mayor’s father, like many other residents, had to abandon one third of his olives (400 trees full) because Ariel settlers would not allow him to harvest them. This despite a 1982 Israeli High Court decision that settlers may not use the land near Ariel as it belongs to the Palestinians.

Israel has a long history of water theft in Salfit, which has the biggest water table in the West Bank. 16 artesian wells in Salfit have been confiscated over the years – the water was diverted miles away to Israel itself as well as settlements in Salfit and the Jordan valley. Israelis and settlers consume five times as much water as Palestinians, but Palestinians pay 300% more. This racist system of water delivery, perfected by the South African apartheid regime, is controlled by the Israeli private water company Merkorot. The nearby villages of Kufr Dik and Bruqin are currently without a consistent supply of water because of overconsumption by settlers.

For the past nine years, the municipality has been trying to build a wastewater treatment plant to service the residents of Salfit town. The plant was initially supposed to be built on Salfit land 13kms from the town. The municipality received a grant of DM 22 million from the German government to build the plant and a mainline pipe to the town but the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) stopped the building and seized all the equipment, which they returned only 18 months later. The Salfit municipality then had to take out a loan to buy a new piece of land eight kilometres closer to the town and another loan of DM 2 million to move the pipes and the electricity cables. Although Israel approved the new site of the plant, the Apartheid Wall will now separate Salfit from the sewage plant, which will then be up for grabs for confiscation by settlers.

The present water scenario is as bleak as the future scenario. The Almatwi valley runs between Salfit and the nearby village of Bruqin. Villagers used to enjoy swimming and splashing in a waterfall, geyser, four springs and several natural pools in this valley, as well as going on mountain walks and holding family barbeques. This is a thing of the past for several reasons. First, because the IOF regularly releases wild pigs into the valley which viciously attack children. Second, because swimming, splashing, rambling and barbequing are prevented by incursions of soldiers. Third, because Israeli water stations set up in the villages of Marda, Rafat and Huwara have drained the water table in the valley with high power suction pumps that suck water “24 hours a day”, according to residents. The Palestinians have been forbidden by the IOF from upgrading their 60 year old suction pump, which they describe as “small” and “low capacity”. The springs, natural pools and the Al Asafeer river that used to irrigate land three kilometres away, have all dried up completely.

Fourth, because the valley is now a heavily polluted and stinking area. All that remains of any visible stream is a channel of raw sewage floating along in a ditch. The sewage is released by the second largest settlement in the West Bank, Ariel, situated on the top of the hill five kilometres away. The sewage poses a grave health risk to Bedouins living in the valley, villagers who use the valley as well as the water table itself. The Salfit environmental health department has to conduct daily laboratory tests on the drinking water because it fears the huge amounts of sewage have seeped into the water table.

Two Bedouin families, numbering 15 family members, have been living on the Almatwi valley hillside for the past three years. They have been forced further and further up the hill to escape the overpowering stench from the sewage, forced closer to the settlers and further from the water source, which currently is a tiny trickle emerging from a rusty and slime-filled metal pipe – the overflow from the Palestinian water station.

Two years ago, Israeli bulldozers created a two metre wide route of destroyed land halfway up the hilltop. Maps made by different organisations like the Palestine Hydrology Group, Land Research Centre and United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, show that this path is the likely route of the Apartheid Wall. These maps have been based on IOF confiscation orders given to Palestinian landowners.

The current route of the Apartheid Wall will also destroy or isolate an ancient burial place called Jelal al Adeer, said to be the tomb of a prophet. The Salfit Mayor expects that another 25% of the land will be confiscated by the Apartheid Wall. This includes thousands of olive trees, stretching as far as the eye can see, and far too numerous to count. It will be a severe blow for the Palestinian olive export, 25% of which comes from the Salfit region.

The Israeli Occupation Forces are much slyer than they were two years ago. They have realised that any announcements that the Apartheid Wall will be built here or there only lead to popular resistance and mass demonstrations by Palestinians. These days, many landowners are not even receiving confiscation orders. They simply wake up one morning and see bulldozers working on their land. When resistance begins, the bulldozers move over the hill and begin working from the opposite direction. Palestinians are left to consult maps and to listen to complaints by Bedouin families in order to deduce that the wall will confiscate 70% or 80% or 90% of their land. Six weeks ago, the Salfit Bedouin families were told that they should leave the area within two weeks.

The Palestinians predict that the Apartheid Wall will arrive in the town of Salfit within three months.

Text by: Anna

Copyright © 2004 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

IWPS House Report No. 53:

9th March 2004

Good News to Keep our Spirits Strong

Checkpoint Azawiya dismantled

After the Israeli activist Gil Na’amati was shot by the army during an anti-wall demonstration in Mas’ha the army put up a checkpoint between the village Mas’ha and Azawiya. This checkpoint made daily life for the local Palestinian population almost impossible and women, men and children had to wait for hours and hours right in front of their houses. IWPS was contacted and spent several days and nights there helping to mobilize people to remove yet another punishment-point and to document it all. It was to this checkpoint that IWPS attracted the attention and presence on the ground of Knesset Member Roman Bronfman (and his aid Dan Goldenblatt). He reacted immediately and on the next day he founded the “Knesset Checkpoint Commando Unit” to be on call for problems at checkpoints. Since then several Knesset Members from different parties have gone into the occupied territories, monitored Human Rights abuses and intervened. The work at Azawiya proved successful and the checkpoint was dismantled and for some weeks now, there has been no checkpoint at Azawiya.

Ali – finally freed

At the weekend of the Muslim holiday Eid Al Ad-ha “our” 17-year-old friend Ali was freed after 14 months in prison. Along with him, his 19-year-old brother Jehad, his 16-year-old neighbor Rashid and the 17-year-old Hussein were also released to go home. What a feast. All the four had been accused of throwing stones or Molotov cocktails. We started a petition for Ali’s release about one year ago and hundreds of faxes, e-mails and phone calls have reached the Ministry of Defense. At last, all the four are free. However over 6000 prisoners are still in Israeli prisons, some having been there for many years.

Training program for Israelis

Around New Year the pilot project “Mikarov” (this is a Hebrew word meaning “up close” or ‘close relatives’) initiated by IWPS started. Mikarov is a workshop for Israeli activists who want to learn more about the conditions for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and help educate their own communities in Israel about how the Occupation is destroying both societies. The evaluation of this first workshop has not been completed yet, but you will soon receive a detailed report about it. The summary of the participants at the end of the workshop was unanimous –  “it changed my life”!

Palestinian olive oil makes its way into the world’s kitchens

IWPS helped facilitate the export of olive oil through the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee. For the first time they not only took oil from the Farmers Union, but also from the Peasants Union in Salfit – thus helping to fulfill one of the aims of our organisation of encouraging different groups to work with and for each other. Some weeks ago the head of a Japanese Fair Trade organization came to Salfit in order to make enquiries and arrangements concerning a delivery to Japan. This was made possible through the work of Japanese IWPS volunteers. Other countries like England, Ireland, Finland and South Africa are also currently working on arranging imports. The USA, Belgium, France, Switzerland and some Arab countries already have a successful history in importing Palestinian olive oil and this work continues. These are some of the attempts to help the farmers to survive and market some of the 36,000 tons of oil they produce every year. If you want any more information on how you can receive the oil and spread background information on the difficulties and risks of farming in the Occupied Territories then please contact us.

More oil info on our website: http://www.womenspeacepalestine.org/olive%20oil/oliveoil_english.htm

Text by: Karin

Copyright © 2004 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

IWPS House Report No. 54:

15 March 2004

Mikarov Brings Occupation Closer to Israelis

Twelve exhausted men and women trooped up the stairs of the small house.  They tossed backpacks and rain gear on the floor, and sank to the mattresses which had been carefully laid down just moments earlier.  Their cautious eyes took in the electric sockets and light bulbs hanging from exposed wires.  They warmed their hands by the space heater.  This was not like the homes they had left in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, but it would be their home for the next few days.

Although they had traveled only half an hour or so to get there, they knew they were in a foreign country. Two of the women, Rachel and Claire, have sons who have been in this foreign country carrying guns.

This was the first day of the Mikarov five-day intensive in the northern West Bank.  “Mikarov,” called in English “Neighbor to Neighbor,” is a collaborative project of IWPS, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Machsom Watch, and the Alternative Information Center.  Conceived by an IWPS team member from the United States, the project aims to challenge the way that Israeli activists have traditionally done solidarity work in Palestine.

The word “Mikarov” in Hebrew means both “from close” and “related.”  Like its English counterpart, the name was chosen by Israeli organizers to convey a complex set of relationships.  Israelis come from close to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, yet the reality they encounter is very far from their own.  Through the workshop they see up close scenes that normally they only read about in Gideon Levy’s columns in Haaretz.  They are encouraged to think about how they are related to the Palestinian people, and also how they can use the experience to change the attitudes of those they relate, or are related to, in Israel.

As internationals in Palestine, we are accustomed to being told by Palestinians, “The most important thing you can do is go back to your own countries and tell people what is happening here.”  Our friends help us make elaborate preparations for our trips abroad.  Our families worry about our safety, and call regularly to make sure we are okay.  When we return, everyone we know is anxious to hear about what we did, whom we met, what we learned.  We make slideshows and videos; we have report-backs and fundraisers.

Israelis who go on solidarity demonstrations with Ta’ayush or to pick olives with Rabbis for Human Rights or rebuild a demolished house with ICAHD often do not even tell their friends or families what they did.  Many feel that there is no space to talk about it, they may be seen as traitors, or simply told they are trying to start an argument.  Because of the relative ease with which they can go back and forth, it is easy to preserve this distance.  The purpose of Mikarov is to break it down, to help them and their communities examine the situation “from close.”

Mikarov, which was organized over three months in the fall, was a ten-day workshop spread out over the month between December 26 and January 24.  We recruited participants who had some previous experience in the Occupied Territories.  We interviewed 20 applicants, and accepted 12, of whom one decided not to participate because she felt it might not be safe.  The participants, 9 women and 2 men, ranged in age from 18 to 56.  The group included a number of professional or student artists, photographers, videographers or actors.

The workshop began with a one-day orientation gathering in East Jerusalem.  Over half of the participants had not been in East Jerusalem before.  Naama from ICAHD offered to meet people at her office, just outside of Jaffa Gate, and walk with them the fifteen minutes to “the other side.”  On that day, Mohammed Jode, of Azzun, Qalqilya and Shelly Nativ, of Tel Aviv facilitated exercises in team-building and observing, and a speaker from the Israeli human rights group B’tselem gave an introduction to human rights monitoring.

The following weekend, Shelly and Mohammed were joined by Alisa Klein, of Northampton, Massachusetts, USA, who also holds Israeli citizenship.  That weekend, the group toured the area of Greater Jerusalem and learned about the “Matrix of Control” through which the Israeli plan to create and ensure a “Jewish Jerusalem” is carried out.  They saw homes which had been demolished for want of permits which cannot be gotten, met with refugee women in the Shoafat Camp, and visited the eight meter concrete Wall at Abu Dis, which separates families from one another and students from their schools.  When border police suddenly threw tear gas over the Wall, several members of the group immediately called their friends in Israel to tell them, “You won’t believe what happens here.”

The group spent the night at Beit Arabia, a community center built by ICAHD in the village of Anata.  They were hosted by the Shawarme family, whose nearby home has been demolished four times by the Israeli authorities.  For most of the participants, it was the first time they had spent the night in a Palestinian village.

Between that weekend and the next, participants were given the task of telling one person they had not previously discussed it with what they had done the first weekend.  Several of them said this was a scarier experience than being teargassed.  The next weekend we met in Hares.  We gave people a series of options for how to get there.  Some chose to drive, while others took a settler bus to Ariel and a Palestinian taxi from there to Hares.

The next five days were spent visiting villages, meeting with families, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, and grassroots activists, and documenting the effects of occupation on the lives of Palestinian people.  Sometimes in smaller groups, the “Mikarovians” toured the Wall in Mas’ha and Jayyous, watched farming families line up and wait for the soldiers to open the gates between their land and their homes, and heard the stories of lives being ripped apart.  In Deir Balut, they met a woman who only a week before had given birth to stillborn twins after not being allowed through the checkpoint.  They spent a night in Yanoun and saw the aftermath of violent settler attacks on the village.

They traveled as Palestinians do, taking green-and-white plated cabs and waiting at checkpoints.  (Usually, Israeli activists travel in the Occupied Territories in yellow-plated cars, which are generally able to go through or around checkpoints without stopping.)  On the third day, we had planned a full day of activities – a demonstration in Budrus, followed by a meeting in Anata – but there was closure in the OPT, and the entire day was spent at checkpoints.  When they arrived at the first checkpoint, they found a car which had been stoned by soldiers because the driver did not stop quickly enough.  A family who was trying to take a sick child to the hospital asked members of the group to accompany them.  When they finally arrived at Anata at 6:00 p.m., having accomplished none of what they planned, the driver who had picked them up in Marda at 10:00 a.m. could not go back to his family in Hares, but had to spend the night with them at Beit Arabia.

The final weekend was devoted to panels focusing on ways to change Israeli attitudes.  Political artists Ronen Eidelman and Tal Adler  inspired the group with consciousness changing art projects they have been involved with.  A group of students in a class Ronen taught made coasters with scenes from the occupation, and put them on the tables in popular bars.  This created a great deal of discussion in the bars, but more people heard about it when supporters called journalists to complain about the action.  Since there was controversy, reporters were interested in covering it, and the project had an even bigger impact.

Participants were asked to commit to specific work they would do in Israel to broaden and deepen the movement to end the occupation.  Rotem, a 19-year-old conscientious objector and youth organizer, decided to organize a trip to Yanoun for Mikarov participants with their families.  Dafna, a magazine photographer, is working on a poster with Michal, who recently completed her alternative to military service with Physicians for Human Rights.  Rachel, who was born in the United States and emigrated to Israel as a student in 1965, wrote a letter “To All Jews concerned about the fate of the State of Israel.”  It reads in part:

My four children have all completed full army service; the boys both volunteered for combat service … because they were raised to believe that you contribute to the full extent of your ability, no compromises.

…Now I will tell you about things I have seen with my own eyes.

In Jayyous I stood on a roof and looked over at the “security fence” being built (January 2004).  It is easy to see the fence’s route.  It runs north to south with broad curves: it curves west to skirt the town of Falame, east to take in some cultivated, Palestinian-owned land, west to skirt Jayyous, then east again.  A swath of Arab-cultivated land about three and a half kilometers wide lies west of the fence—i.e. inside Israel—although it is east of the green line, and there are no Israeli homes or fields on it.  Security?  It’s all flat—no topographical advantage to any particular position….

I heard one Palestinian explain that he is one of eight sons.  Six of them work the family’s lands.  One of the brothers got a permit; the others did not.  None of them has any sort of criminal or terrorist record.  What purpose does this serve, if not to intimidate, humiliate—and to cause them to give up and go away?

Remember American society during the Vietnam war?  Good does not spring from evil.  … If we do not understand this soon, we will destroy ourselves.

Several of them volunteered to help organize another workshop, and IWPS has already received emails from people who heard about this one and want to participate in the next.

All the participants said in their evaluations, that the workshop changed their lives.  Hopefully, it will also help to change Israeli society.

Text by: Kate; Photos by Hilit

Copyright © 2004 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

IWPS House Report No. 55:

5th April,  2004

Wall Gates, Gate Incidents & Permits in Azzun Atma, Habla and Mas’ha

The wall is creating unbearable pressure for Palestinian people. Lack of freedom of movement, already caused by the checkpoints and roadblocks of the Israeli Military Occupation, has now been notched up one more level on a torturous scale. The wall is imprisoning people in towns and villages and enabling the wholesale takeover by Israel of the agricultural lands of the Palestinians.

To give an example from a few of the villages where IWPS works, let us consider some of the problems facing the families and farmers in the villages just a little west of Hares, where we live and work.

All the land, 15,000 dunums (4 dunums to the acre) in the three villages of Sannirya, Azzun Atma, and Beit Amin belongs to Sannirya, which is considered the mother village.

There are around 6,000 inhabitants in all the three villages. Almost all the inhabitants can be traced back to one family and are now distributed throughout these three villages. Lack of access through wall gates causes many problems, not just access to farmland but also for family events and for keeping up normal relationships.

Land, infrastructure, services and support were shared.  500 dunums of olive trees and vegetable fields have now been destroyed for the construction of the wall and 7,000 dunums are left on the other side of the wall.

One square kilometer (10,000 dunums) of farmland in this area of the West Bank used to produce income of about US$900,000, more than twice the income from a similar area in the rest of the West Bank.  Azzun Atma was known as the village that yielded the highest produce per dunum of land in the Occupied West Bank, and, as a result, the village was largely dependent upon its agricultural industry.  Prior to September 2000, ten trucks of produce left the village daily:  nine went to cities in the West Bank and one truck exported produce to Israel.

Today, the residents need permits to live on their own land.  Only those with Azzun Atma as as their address on their ID cards are allowed to enter.

Village of Azzun Atma

Azzun Atma is separated from the other two villages by the wall, which has 4 gates in it. Three gates are permanently closed for the local population, but used by the army to enter the village areas. The fourth gate of Azzun Atma was finished and closed on the 30th of October 2003. It is the only gate for farmers from Sannirya, Beit Amin, Kufr Thult and Mas’ha to enter their fields on the western part of the wall. The next gates are Hable to the north and Mas’ha to the south.

The gate to Azzun Atma, No. 48, is open from 6 am till 7 pm. The gate is similar to a checkpoint and permanently manned with soldiers, who change shift every 24 hours. Daily access to the lands which contain greenhouses and vegetable fields is necessary to water and take care of the plants.

The main victims of the wall gate are farmers, pupils, teachers and sick people.

Due to the wall and the checkpoint at the gate, the villagers face huge problems like long waiting hours at the gate, bad treatment and harassment by the soldiers, long explanations that have to be given to the soldiers to be let in or out, and the arbitrary closing of the gates.  For instance, during the Jewish Purim feast, the gate was completely closed for everybody.

Men, in particular, are detained by the soldiers for hours.  The soldiers sometimes become violent towards villagers.

Pupils and teachers from neighbouring villages are delayed or unable to access the school in Azzun Atma at all. Several school days have been cancelled this school term because the gate was closed.

Doctors are sometimes denied entry to the village through the gate, leading to severe medical problems.  It is impossible for doctors to respond to emergencies in the late evening or night time when the gate is closed.  A woman had to give birth at home recently, because the soldiers did not allow her to leave the village and see a doctor. Families cannot visit their relatives in Azzun Atma any more, because they now need a special permit.

Vegetables from Azzun Atma, which supplies the whole area, cannot be harvested.  Even if produce is allowed out of the village, it is often so late that it rots on the waiting trucks.

A member of the village council says that he hears at least twice a week about a gate incident.

Habla, like other villages, has gates which are opened 3 times a day for short periods: 6.30 to 8 am, 12 am to 1 pm and 4 pm to 5 pm.  The gate can only be used by farmers and those who want to go to Qalqilya.  As in other places, the opening of the gate is inconsistent and gates can be arbitrarily closed earlier or opened later than the set times.

The main gate in Mas’ha village has been permanently closed since an anti-wall demonstration.  The farmers’ gate opens twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. If a farmer just wants to water his plants, a task of perhaps a couple of hours, he has to wait till the evening to be able to get back into his village.

Steps required in order to get a Wall Gate Permit

In any event, villagers cannot pass through a gate without applying beforehand at the Israeli Administration office for a permit. They have to obtain several documents: photocopy of identity card, land approval document of the Court in Salfit, Village Council confirmation that the land really belongs to them and is registered in their name, a letter from the Palestinian Court in Qalqiliya to prove that their land has not been sold, rented or mortgaged, new land ownership papers for 2004 from Qedumim (a local illegal Israeli settlement), and ensure consistency of spellings and names on the Land Registration Form as Israel controls the land documents. Under Jordanian control, land registration was registered in the name of the 2nd grandfather, which often creates problems. Once all these documents have been obtained, villagers can then fill out the permit application.

The application takes 4 or 5 days of running around, paying money for transportation and for the various documents. The actual wall permit costs about NIS 40 and may only be valid for a month or two, there being no consistency on this. Not every farmer is able to obtain all these documents and find the money for transport.  It also delays them from their work, which is so often disrupted anyway by the army. And all for a permit that may only last a month and which does not in any event provide a guarantee that the soldiers will allow them passage.

More people are needed to work on a specific piece of land than get permits, as the permits are usually issued to only one or two persons. The local farmers need all their family members to work the land and some families also need extra workers. A permit for only one person in a family is almost as useless as none. Another problem relates to specific key people – one farmer, for example, is responsible for the water pump in the whole area. If he does not get in through the wall gate then there is no water distributed to the other farmers. Water is essential for intensive cultivation.

Around 500 persons from Sanniriya and Beit Amin managed to get permits, but almost 4,000 people have to go to the land every day. Permits are regularly refused, if there is a problem with the land or the farmers’ plans – for instance, the Israeli authorities may say they do not agree with fig trees being grown in a certain place because they want to be able to see straight through to the wall – or if a security issue comes up with your ID number.

As anyone with any imagination and empathy can understand, the problems of the wall and the wall gates is going to become bigger and bigger and already the villagers are feeling it is yet another way to try and pressure them to leave their villages and for the Israelis to confiscate more of their land.

Text by: Angie, Barbara and Karin.

Copyright © 2004 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

IWPS House Article 56 – LIFE HAS LOST ITS TASTE – A Visit to Jayous on 22nd April 04.

Text and photos by Angie, IWPS.

The last time I was in Jayous was just after the expropriation orders had been left on trees informing the local villagers that their land was going to be taken for the Wall[1]. There were large nonviolent demonstrations going on to protest and to try to stop the threatened theft of the land and water resources that would be the other side of the wall. We were shown the route of the planned wall during a demonstration and witnessed the prayers for peace on some of the Fridays when villagers prayed that the wall would never be built.

Unfortunately the wall was built and now, 18 months later, the disastrous effects are clear for all to see. IWPS chose to spend a day in the company of one of the more well-known farmers and listen to his story to gain an insight into the problems.

Before the Wall



The Wall here is actually a wire fence with razor wire and a road which the military patrol and guard. Local villagers are threatened and told they will be shot if they come close to the Wall without a permit.

Shareef Omar showed me round his land. It is now fully shut off from his home and village of Jayous and to visit him on his land I had to go through the Jayous wall gate just close to the bottle-neck checkpoint into Qalqilia.

He had used his permit to get access to his land but as an international the soldiers let me through the gate without a permit. There is now a similar checkpoint into the village of Jayous from the West Bank side, also controlled by the Israeli army, and which was blocked with a huge build up of traffic trying to get through when I was leaving Jayous to get home. Jayous, a small Palestinian village within a walled enclave, is thus easily and completely shut off even from the other villages in the enclave and can be completely controlled by the Israeli military.


Shareef’s family land is very close to the 1948 green-line border and his father lost some land to the settlement of Tsurgal in 1948 that was  built just across the green line. However, the family continued to work the land they had left. Then on 30th October 1988 the Israelis confiscated more of his land for a quarry, and he had to watch while they dug away his trees and soil and took out the rock. After some years they started burying explosives on more of his land to extend the quarry, and there were many explosions. So he went to court and fought for his land.

Shareef’s farmland

There are many ways that Israel has devised to ‘legally’ take land from the Palestinians. Shareef outlined three such ways :–

1. British mandate law specifies that land confiscations can take place for the construction of roads, and water or sewage pipes.

2. Turkish law states that if land is not used for 3 years then it can be confiscated – which is why it is such a problem when Israeli soldiers or settlers deny people access to their lands to work it. The Israelis choose to take their aerial photos twice a year – in May (after harvesting) and in November (before ploughing) as these times do not show clearly that the land is being worked.

3. If the land is rocky (contains more than 50% of rocks) then it is considered as unsuitable for agriculture and can be taken. However, much of Palestinian land is rocky and yet agriculture can take place successfully on it. Therefore his family worked hard making rock terraces and planting and growing fruit trees to prove the land should remain with them as agricultural land – they won in the Supreme Court – and proved the land was theirs on 28th May 1996.

Finally, in June 2003 Shareef received a court order saying the explosions had to stop as it was his land. They did, and he does not have to watch any more of his land disappear into the quarry. However, this was not the end of his troubles as by now the wall had been built and his land was enclosed on the other side, away from the village where he lives.

The Wall itself has taken 1,362 dunams from the land of 28 different families. It had been chaos and the maps and plans of where the wall would exactly go changed 8 times leaving each farmer uncertain up to the last minute. The Wall has now been built over 6 km away from the Green Line and encloses all the underground water of the area. Five Palestinian communities are now cut off from the West Bank and their families and neighbours as well as being cut off from Israel and their status is unclear. Shareef said, ‘The West Bank is going to be five large prisons subdivided into even smaller prisons. It is better to eat only once a day than to be new refugees and so people have to get their land back’. He had been in the forefront of the fight to prevent the wall from being built and was devastated by its impact.

He talks about the land being ‘isolated’ rather than taken …….he will not lose hope that they can regain their lands. The Supreme Court decision that ordered that the land was indeed his land also said that the land behind the wall is not confiscated (only the land where the wall is actually built is confiscated) and that he does therefore have the right to farm it. Of the 12,500 dunams that Jayous had access to before the wall, 9,300 dunams are now ‘isolated’.

The military authorities announced on the 2nd October 2003 that the farming land of Jayous including Shareef’s farm was ‘a closed military zone’ but his sheep were in the area and so he stayed with the sheep ignoring the announcement. Then on the 12th October the soldiers made a large circle and caught 66 farmers who were working on their lands and had refused to leave. These 66 farmers were deported from their land and were told that if they came back they would have to pay 2000 NIS and spend a month in prison. However 19 (including him) managed to elude the soldiers by hiding up trees and behind rocks and by 11p.m. they were all in his shed and ‘they lived under the stars’ with food from their land. But as Shareef said, ‘they heard the cry from Jayous’ from their families who were worried about them and from where the soldiers had threatened to shoot anyone coming near the fence. They had no rice or bread and were running out of food. The Red Cross from Qalqilia threw rice over the fence for them so they managed to continue to hide for 26 days. He left only because he was invited to the Social Forum in India to talk about the Wall and its effects. On his return he was not able to enter his land for 5 months but luckily a friend of his was able to get a permit and able to enter the farm and keep some of his crops cultivated.

He was not given a permit when he kept applying because he had been so vocal against the wall and also against the permits. He was told he had only olives and therefore did not need a permit as he only needed to be on the land for 20 days in a year, when in fact he is an intensive cultivator who needs access every day to irrigate and tend his crops. However, after he testified at The Hague[2] and gave interviews to Israeli newspapers and shamed them before the world with his testimony of not being permitted to farm his land and after some internationals applied pressure on his behalf, he was informed that if he applied again he would get a permit. He now has a gate permit valid for 6 months only that gives him permission to go through the gate and onto his land when the gates are open.

Shareef with his gate permit

The gates are meant to be open from 5a.m. to 7p.m. But often the gates are not open and people have to wait hours to get in or out[3]. Soldiers also arrive and ask them how long they are going to be and apply pressure for them to leave earlier. The permit does not allow them to sleep out on the land either, which they used to do regularly in the summer. Some of them do stay out though because it can take 2 or 3 hours in the morning and the same in the evening to walk in and out, especially for those whose land is nowhere near the gate. The day I was there an old man who had been tending his land had been bitten by a snake and was riding back on his donkey cart to try and get urgent medical treatment. When I reached the Wall Gate some hours later he had still not been permitted to go through the gate back to Jayous (even though he had a permit) and his leg was swollen from the bite.

Shareef showed me the greenhouses that were still productive – they were full of ripening tomatoes that are now sold to a village near to Nablus as the Israelis do not allow them to go into the big cities anymore to sell their produce. They used to supply the 4 big cities of Jenin, Nablus, Qalqilia (which is the largest prison, now surrounded by the Wall and which imprisons 45,000 people) and Tulkarem. The big cities are only allowed to bring in Israeli produce now and most of the Palestinian crops rot because the Israelis do not allow their transportation to market. This year 75% of Shareef’s guava crop rotted due to lack of freedom of movement. The little produce that he can get out is now sold at very low prices – he used to get 5 or 6 NIS a kilo for loquats but now gets only 2NIS.

It is the loquat season at the moment and the fruit-laden trees are beautiful but Shareef is unable to harvest much of the crop to sell because of the Israeli-imposed restrictions and the lack of permits for his workers. Loads of lemons were seen rotting on the ground for similar reasons. He needs 4 or 5 workers a day at least and over the year he needs around 2,500 workers to pick his fruit – he grows avocados, mangoes, almonds, figs, guavas, olives, peaches, pecans, and grapes outside and in the greenhouses they mainly grow tomatoes and cucumbers and between the greenhouses grow cauliflowers and cabbages, beans, onions and other vegetables plus wheat and barley. His is an organic farm and he makes compost. He is the biggest farmer in the area in terms of yields, having 100 irrigated dunams. He can get 36 tonnes of tomatoes from a 1 dunam greenhouse.  The water is run co-operatively by all the farmers who irrigate in the area. The quantity of water they are allowed is now, however, controlled by Israel, who can at any time restrict its use.

Jayous water and land trapped within the Wall. 3,200 people live in the village of Jayous and most rely on the land for their income. Now they have been cut off or had taken away from them more than 90% of their land and only a very few of them have permits.  But they all need permits, not just for themselves but also for the labourers needed to help in the work. Many people who cannot get a permit and cannot therefore farm their land anymore have had to abandon their greenhouses that used to be in full production. The sight of the flapping, disintegrating and empty plastic greenhouses was a sorry sight as I remembered the verdant productive scenes of a mere year and a half ago.

Then I could walk freely from one farmer to the other taking a cup of tea here and a cup of coffee there and see the families enjoying their work in the fields and greenhouses. Now there were only a handful of farmers permitted to work their land and they were harassed and uncertain. The soldiers prevent them taking in gas to boil their tea or diesel to run the tractors and the water pump, so they are finding it difficult to keep their crops irrigated and much of the land is now abandoned. The families back in the village now have no means to earn their living. This is yet another form of the slow ethnic cleansing policies that Israel is so skilled at applying.

Looking from inside the ‘isolated land’ across the Wall (which is a high fence at this point), Shareef points out Jayous at the top of the hill and explains how life has changed. Not content with taking away the land and controlling the water resources by enclosing Jayous within the Wall, the soldiers have now put a checkpoint at the one road entrance into the village and control closely the traffic coming in and out, often closing the one way into the village. Shareef also reported that soldiers come in every day to the village and throw tear gas so that many people in the village have respiratory problems. There are now also reports that women are aborting their babies. Animals are also suffering unprecedented abortions with reports that 30 sheep aborted because of a gas canister that was dropped in a farmer’s barn. As Shareef said, ‘life has lost its taste’.


[1] IWPS House Report No. 9 – Land and Water Theft in Falamia and Jayous – September 2002.

[2] This was at the hearing of the International Court of Justice at The Hague in early 2004 which held oral pleadings on the effect of the Wall during the advisory case on the legality of the Wall under international law.

[3] See IWPS House Report No 55 on the wall gate permit system.

IWPS House Article 57–

Tulkarem Revisited

I recalled the checkpoint at Jbarra from last year, the long gash through the landscape to accommodate the electric fence still bright like an exposed wound.  Now the electric fence is finished and travelers to Tulkarem take a small road to the West.  There is a small checkpoint  and a couple of soldiers asked to see our passports.  We noted the stern notice that no Israelis would be allowed beyond this point.  Initially, the soldiers did not want to let us pass, but our passports were not Israeli and, after some hesitation, they let us go gravely informing us that it was dangerous to enter Tulkarem.

Later one of our colleagues wanted to join us but the soldiers would not let her through saying it was a mistake to have let us through.

It is clear that the Israeli government does not want either foreigners or their own people to see what is happening to the life of Palestinians in these enclaves created by the wall.

We made our way to a trade union office and spent some time choosing handmade articles for gifts.  We met several women whose lives had been disrupted by the wall.  Someone from Nazlat ‘Isa, a village with a population of 1,500, told us of the home of a bridegroom being demolished on the night before his marriage last year in order to make way for the wall.  The couple has to live in a room at his mother’s.  In all, four houses were destroyed along with over 200 stores.  The village is now enclosed on all sides by the wall and access is difficult and at the mercy of the soldiers. To read more about this and on how families have fared since the wall has been built, please visit http://stopthewall.org/latestnews/170.shtml and http://stopthewall.org/latestnews/278.shtml

We visited the village of Al Jarushiya, population around 1,400, just 3 km from Tulkarem.  We went to the Sultan family who used to have 400 dunams of land. 300 dunams have now been isolated by the wall, 50 dunams have been confiscated for the wall itself, land on which citrus trees used to grow, and the family is left with only 50 dunams.  We were told how the engineer made a “mistake” of 30 dunams and 1,000 olive trees were uprooted in error, many buried under the earth from the excavations of their land for the wall.  No compensation was offered for the loss of the 1,000 olive trees.

The wall is now finished and is about 100 meters from the house.  IWPS was told how soldiers patrol the fence at night, throwing sound bombs, declaring curfews, singing and playing music through loudspeakers so they cannot sleep.  The villagers see it as another way to force them to leave their land, a voluntary transfer more subtle than simply removing them from their land.

The farmers now have to walk 5 km to an agricultural gate called Bawab al Kawak at Deir Ghusun to gain access to their land, and then have to walk a further 5 km in order to reach their land 100 meters away.  They are not allowed to use a car.  In addition, the family has to obtain permits, which take a week to obtain and are valid for a month at a time.  Out of 120 people, only 10 to 12 were given permits. The grandfather and grandmother were given permits, but cannot walk the 20 kilometers required to get to their land and back. Soldiers tell them they need a permit for their donkey and that they should name the donkey after the farmers, an insult in Palestinian society.  Although there are set hours for the opening of the gates, they in fact are opened when the soldiers feel like it, with villagers having to wait for hours sometimes.

Four years ago, before the second Intifada, 70% to 80% of the people in the village worked in Israel.  Now most people have no work and their land became their sole livelihood.  Families earned enough from the land to pay for their children’s education, marry, and build houses.  25 families shared the bounty of the land that could yield 7,000 Jordanian Dinars a year, around 45,000 shekels, per family.

Previously, farmers exported their produce to the rest of the West Bank and Israel.  Tomatoes earned for the farmers between 2 to 5 shekels per kg.  Now a 15 kg box of tomatoes can be bought in the market for 3 shekels.  Palestinians in Jerusalem, on the other hand, are forbidden to import produce from the West Bank.  The fine for doing so is 48,000 shekels.  Either way Palestinians are impoverished.

A sewing factory with around 30 employees had to close down.  Workers in the West Bank used to sew up cut pieces brought in from Israel into clothing. At the beginning of the second Intifada, there were lengthy closures with full curfew.  Everyone had to stay in their houses for a week at a time, with a space of two to three hours to allow people to buy food.  It also meant the end of the sewing factory as goods could not be passed back and forth with the closure.

We also paid a visit to Irtah, a village right next to the Green Line.  The village had received many delegations over the past year from many countries, even an assistant to Kofi Annan, they said.  Still the wall had been built.  We asked the farmer how he felt, a year later.  He related how at that time, even knowing about the loss of access to his land and seeing the uprooting of his trees, he had not quite realized the full extent of the crime against them.  Farmers cannot now get to their land.  They have lost their livelihoods.  Israel, he says, has created this separation between the farmers and their land and controls them with the requirement for permits to go through the agricultural gates.  In some locations, Israel took more land than was shown on the maps.  400 dunams were taken simply because there was no building on the land.  It forms a U-shape east of the highway that lies just to the West of the Green Line.  This fertile piece of land is clearly not required for security purposes.

Before the wall, unemployment in Tulkarem was already very high at 75%.  Now it is 88% to 90% unemployed.  He asked how they can live now with no hope left.  “We had always had hope and thought that things were not so bad because the land was still there, but now we cannot reach our land.”  When the wall is finished, the Israelis will have all the water sources and 53% of their land in the West Bank, with what is left divided into cantons.  “How,” he asks, “can one believe that Israel wants peace?” He does not believe that killing solves anything, and he teaches his child to be peaceful, but now his son responds that his way is not working and has chosen to portray photos of martyrs.  He asked who changed his son’s way of thinking.  It is clear to him that Sharon wants the

wall, the Bantustans, and he does not want peace.  He feels that Palestinians are being pushed into leaving their land or dying a slow death.

There were 26 demonstrations against the wall, with eventually thousands taking part, but to no avail.  “Before we had some recourse to the law, but now the world is just run by power.”

We went on to visit Qalqilya passing through the bottleneck entrance, the only way in and out of Qalqilya, that is also a military checkpoint with an adjacent military base. Lots of people from Qalqilya have left and gone to other countries in order to earn a living. Qalqilya used to be a thriving town with Israelis coming on weekends to buy produce.  Now it is a dying town.

From the Qalqilya side one can see the full height of the wall, 8 meters high, and the difficulties it brings to the Palestinians.  From the Israeli side, one can whiz by in a car and see new landscaping, plantings of shrubs and flowers and a wall that looks about a meter high, and one cannot imagine the hardships it creates for Palestinians.

Report  and photos by Barbara

The Truth Will Prevail

This booklet was written in May 2004 to show the living Palestinian people and communities of Salfit. Written in response to a promotional leaflet that was produced for Ariel, which totally ignores the Palestinian presence and presents Ariel as being in the centre of Israel, it uses the pictures and wording from the Ariel brochure and contrasts these with the missing pictures.  Angie of the International Womens Peace Service-Palestine (IWPS) wrote it and took the pictures at the request of Nawaf Souf, the Salfit District Co-ordination Officer.

IWPS thanks the very many people who live in the towns and villages of Salfit for the information and time they provided to enable its publication. This booklet is dedicated to them all in their struggle for their land. It is especially dedicated to Issa Souf, a peace-loving man of Haris who was shot and paralysed by a soldier of the Israeli Defence Forces in 2001 while trying to bring his children to safety during an army invasion and who works with all who work for peace and justice. He helped a great deal in the production of this booklet.

The booklet can be seen on the IWPS website along with many other reports about life in Salfit. You can find the website at www.iwps.info.  A copy of the original brochure is also on the website. If you look at it you can see that it was produced to promote the settlement of Ariel and you will see no mention of Palestine, no pictures of the life of the Palestinians. IWPS here presents another view, one almost covered over by the colonial expansion of settlements. Here are pictures of a land and a people who refuse to be erased, who have endured an occupation for almost 40 years and who are still living and honouring their traditions and ancient history. Here is the true face of the land of Salfit.

Present day Salfit

The Salfit Governorate is situated in the North West of the West Bank to the south and west of Nablus and to the North of Ramallah. The green line lies to the west of Salfit. There are roughly 64,251 Palestinian people in the 23 Palestinian towns and villages of Salfit. In order of size they are Salfit city (12,000), Biddya (8,000), Kafra ad Dik (4,946), Az Zawiya (4,877), Deir Istiya (3,700),  Qarawat Bani Hasan (3,568), Deir Ballut (3,538), Bruqin (3,510), Kifl Haris (3,107), Haris (2,943), Sarta (2,508), Marda (2,125), Rafat (1,936), Mas’ha (1,903), Yasuf (1,692), Farkha (1,472), Iskaka (1,055), Qira (994), Khirbet Qeis (243), Wadi Qana (69), Izbat Abu Adam (46), Khirbet Susa (13), Dar Abu Basal (6).

The villages and towns of Salfit each have a village council and Mayor and many have a Municipality building (often built with foreign aid).

Salfit, itself is a town of around 12,000 inhabitants and is the regional capital of the Governorate of Salfit. Salfit contains local branches of the Palestinian Government Offices of :- Agriculture, Chamber of Commerce, Culture, Education, Health, Interior, Islamic Affairs,  Labour, Local Government, National Establishment Office, Security, Social Affairs, Youth and Sport,  but there are few resources for community work.

The Israelis, on the other hand, have constructed 21 illegal settlements on confiscated Palestinian land in the Salfit Govenorate since their Military Occupation in 1967. These settlements contain over 55,000 colonists,

around 28,000 of whom now live in Ariel settlement that stretches for over 12 km on top of some of Salfit’s most beautiful hilltops. The settlers continue to expropriate more Palestinian land and there are plans for even more land to be stolen through the building of the Wall. Once the Wall is completed there will be three open air prisons or cantons – the Haris-Jama’in area, the Salfit area and the Deir Ballut area.

Ariel, itself, is presented as the Capital of Samaria, in the heart of Israel, 40 km east of Tel Aviv, 40 km west of the River Jordan and 65 km from Jerusalem. Described as an urban settlelment occupying 12 km from west to east and as a dynamic young city, the brochure shows an aerial view of the city and some close-ups of the housing and centre.

In Ariel the brochure informs us there are 3,000 families, 13,000 inhabitants. The Israeli Ministry of Housing and Building has made a plan for a population of 100,000. The population of the city is varied with young couples and middle-aged families, born in Israel and from different ethnic groups. 85% are non-religious and 15% religious.

New immigrants continue to settle in Ariel with hundreds of families coming from Russia, South America and North America.

They are given subsidised housing, transport and educational benefits to entice them to settle in the West Bank. Encouraged to think of themselves as being in an Israeli town, few of them even know the names of the villages upon whose land they are living or that the indigenous people call the area Salfit not Samaria. Some villages are not even allowed to have a village signpost. Haris for instance has had it’s village signpost removed numerous times.

Whereas Ariel attracts new immigrants with its comfortable housing at cheap prices and new housing units are being built every year, the reality is very different in the Palestinian villages. The building in the Palestinian villages and towns is controlled by the Israeli authorities in various ways – mainly by unfair and discriminatory denial of building permits but also by the use of armed force to demolish houses. At least 12 houses and 5 public buildings have been demolished in the Salfit Governorate since September 2002. The total estimated cost of damages is around US45 million.

Security is non-existent for Palestinians. Every home has had a close family member either in prison and often tortured, or injured or killed. Salfit is the Governorate that has experienced much less direct Israeli violence than other Governorates and yet even here there have been 30 people killed, 209 seriously injured and 143 prisoners in the last 3 years.

Rafat is a typical little Salfit village with a history going back thousands of years. It has an ancient mosque of over 800 years and many old houses in the centre. Firmly rooted in its fertile soil there are olives, wheat and barley grown. Rafat is renowned for its meat and cheese from the many goats and sheep that graze on the pasture. However, the illegal Israeli settlements can be seen dominating the hills around, Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks prevent free movement, and armed settlers and soldiers invade the village from time to time.

The building of the ‘Separation Fence’ (as the Israelis call it) or the ‘Expropriation Wall’ (as the Palestinians call it) will mean the loss of access to over 50% of their best and most fertile land. The village will be in a little enclave along with Deir Ballut, Az Zawwiya and Mas’ha. – an open-air prison which the Israelis will be able to control completely. The pressure that this little village already feels from the oppressive military occupation of their land will increase another tortuous notch.

Transport in Salfit

Until the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the main access road to Salfit from the northern villages was the road that forks off the road that has now become the main entrance into the illegal settlement of Ari’el. This route to Salfit has been completely blocked. Therefore traffic to Salfit from villages like Kifl Haris have to go east, and then along a dirt track to the south of Tapuah Settlement that then leads back west through the villages of Yasouf and Iskaka. Although this route has also been blocked by rubble and concrete since the outbreak of the intifada, Palestinians go round the blockage on foot and collect transport on the other side. However, this road is long and unsatisfactory as the main traffic artery between Salfit and villages to the north. Instead of the original 3.5 kilometres journey to Salfit from Kifl Haris, it is now a route of 20 kilometres along bad roads with a walk over a roadblock in all weathers.

The many restrictions on the movement of Palestinians and the minimal road network available for them to use is particularly galling considering the enormous resources invested by Israel in order to meet the needs of settlers and in particular those of Ariel. For instance, the Tran-Samaria Highway which connects Ariel and the adjacent settlements to Tel-Aviv was built as a four-lane highway a few hundred metres to the south of the existing 505 road in order to circumvent the villages of Mas’ha and Biddya. In the process Israel expropriated extensive lands from Palestinian residents and caused considerable environmental damage by bisecting all the hills situated along the course of the road. Since the beginning of the Intifada, as part of Israel’s policy of ‘clearing’ territory, the IDF have uprooted numerous olive trees on the sides of this road in order to reduce the dangers facing settlers using the road.

The Ariel brochure boasts of convenient and fast transport services to the big centres of population. The Dan Bus Company provides regular transport from Ariel through Petach Tikva to Tel Aviv and back. Also, there is an express bus line from Ariel to the North of Tel Aviv and back. The journey time is around 50 minutes. Egged Bus Company operates lines from the central bus station in Jerusalem thorugh Ariel to Kfar Saber and Netanya and back.

However, for the Palestinians in Salfit, there are an average of 24 rock, concrete or metal gate roadblocks cutting entry for vehicles throughout the Salfit area. The number fluctuates widely, more often up than down, as the Israeli military close and open them randomly.

Education in Salfit

The education system in Ariel is considered one of the best in Israel and includes nurseries, day care centres, kindergartens, 3 general elementary schools, 1 religious elementary school and an extensive high school reaching the 12th grade. The scientific academic college under the supervision of the Bar-Elan University has 3,500 students in 7 departments. In the municipality library there is a big selction of children’s literature, Hebrew, Russian, and English literature and professional literature in various fields. Ariel also has a community

centre that provides a variety of courses and activities from sport, fitness, folk dancing, enrichment and study. There are cultural evenings, theatre performances, films and music studies, where old people and young people can gather and be together.

In Salfit there is a growing population of young Palestinian people needing an education also. At present the student population is around 18,000 students which represents 35% of the population. There are 53 schools in Salfit, 15 mixed, 13 girls, 25 boys. Further education is provided by the Open University in Salfit that started around 5 years ago and which now has over 2,000 students. Many of the students are women or from poor backgrounds or those who have missed out on an education before. It is proving very successful and provides a good education at a very cheap cost. Otherwise students usually go outside the area to get further education – either to An Najjar University in Nablus, Bir Zeit,  or out of the country (mainly Jordan).

The education system faces major problems due to the disruptions caused by curfews, and road closures which mean that both teachers and students cannot reach their schools. Around 10 school days per year are lost due to military activities like curfews. There is also a high level of infrastructure damage caused by settler and army violence. For instance, the army has entered the Salfit secondary school 4 times, firing shots, breaking gates and windows. 3 years ago the army went into 6 schools with tanks, breaking gates and windows. In 2003 3 students and 2 teachers were wounded by the army in Kafr ad Dik and Haris.

There is also the long-lasting effects of trauma on the school kids themselves who see so much settler and army violence around, suffer night-time raids and the disappearance of their loved ones on mass arrest raids, who suffer humiliating experiences at checkpoints, and who have often seen their close family and relatives abused, wounded or killed. Teachers report that these experiences lead to high incidents of bed-wetting, lack of concentration, very disturbed behaviour and lack of motivation.

Services present in Salfit

There is only one major public library in the Salfit area. With 20,000 books housed in a brand new building it is impressive with its 7 computers plus a bright and attractive children’s section  For access to a comprehensive reference library, people in the Salfit region have to travel to Nablus or Ramallah, which is impossible for most, as they need a permit to travel and these are checked by the military all along the roads.

Many of the villages are attempting to renovate the old parts of their villages, some of which are then converted to community centers. Sarta, for instance, has a place for the youth to learn computer skills and a space where local artists can show their work.

There are at least one or two mosques in nearly all of the villages, sometimes 5 or more, including some very ancient mosques. However, the imposition of draconian travel restrictions and the lack of freedom of movement means that most Moslems in Palestine and most Palestinian Christians cannot visit their most holy mosques and churches that are situated in Jerusalem.

Jewish worshippers and pilgrims, however, are given easy access to their holy places. The roadblocks are even taken up from time to time to make access easy where ancient religious tombs are sited in Palestinian villages, like Kifl Haris for instance. And in Ariel there are synagogues to cater for the different sects and a big central synagogue is being built that will cater for all ethnic groups.

Unemployment in Salfit

The unemployment rate is very high due to the closures imposed by the Israeli state since the start of the Intifada. Probably over 70% of people are without work and poverty is a major problem with around two thirds of the people living on less than 2 US$ per day. Local business and trade is very limited with no big businesses or factories or trade associations. There are just a few small local businesses, factories and services that have managed to survive so far. There are quite a few stone quarries that have managed to continue to operate but even here the Israeli state has interfered to make things difficult, closing down two of the main quarries.

Agriculture is based mainly on olives. Of the 100,000 dunams of cultivated lands in Salfit, 80% is cultivated with olives, 10% with wheat or corn, 5% with fruits and other trees and 5% with vegetables and other small crops. Olives produce higher yields every second year. In Salfit in the good years the yield is around 2,300 tons of olive oil whereas it is only around 600 tons in the poorer years.

However, olive harvest time, which should be a time of happiness when the whole family join in the harvest, has become fraught with danger as settlers come out with guns and try to prevent the harvesting of olives on lands that they are trying to control for themselves. Olives are stolen, donkeys ‘impounded’, agricultural roads are blocked, and the pickers harassed and shot at resulting in injuries and in some cases death. None of the settlers  are prosecuted for these assaults and only the most blatant of the murders is even investigated.

In Ariel however, over one thousand, three hundred dunams near Barqan on the west border of Ariel were taken from the nearby Palestinian villages for the building of an industrial area called Ariel West where there are around 100 factories in the fields of electronics, food, metal, computers and aerospace. These factories supply work to about 1,300 of Ariel’s inhabitants. Ariel also boasts of being a technological greenhouse with a science centre, where researchers and scientists develop products and new processes for commercial purposes. The science centre employs dozens of workers

Water Resources in Salfit

The Salfit area is very rich in water but the Israelis have control over 6 artesian wells that draw water from under the area and directs it to the Jordan Valley, the settlements and to Israel itself, while Bruqin and Kafr ad Dik are without water. In fact 7 of the Salfit villages are still not connected to a water network.

The consumption ratio of water is 5 to 1, 1 for the Palestinians and 5 for the Israelis. The US Agency for International Development specifies a minimum of 100 litres of water per day per person but Palestinians in the West Bank receive only 60 litres per day whereas the Israeli Jewish settlers get an average of 300 litres per day. After having stolen the water from the Palestinians, the stolen water is sold back to the Palestinians at a rate 300% more than it is sold to the Israelis.

Only Salfit town has a sewage network that deals with 70 % of the sewage. The remaining 30% and all the sewage from other towns and villages is dealt with by cess pits with the removal of sewage periodically by tank. The Israeli authorities are continuing to block various development and improvement schemes.

Most of the sewage created by Ariel flows into a riverbed at the western entrance to the settlement, and then continues to flow to the southwest. This sewage which seeps into the soil and mixes with the spring water stored in the aquifer, passes just a few metres from a pumping station supplying most of the water used for domestic consumption by the residents of Salfit. The water engineer sometimes has to order the municipality to stop pumping after routine inspections reveal particularly high levels of pollution.

Wastewater from another illegal Israeli settlement, Immanuel, forms a lake of sewage in Wadi Qana causing contamination of cultivated agricultural land and contamination of the water sources near the villages of Jinsafut and Deir Istia.

Water-related diseases are occurring in poor Palestinian villages where people cannot afford to boil their drinking water. This humanitarian crisis is especially frustrating when compared to the nearby settlements with their profligate use of water for their flower gardens and swimming pools.


Ancient History of Palestine

The land of Palestine has been inhabited by numerous peoples over its ancient history, from the early humans who wandered out of their birthplace in Africa, to the present day Palestinians. The town of Salfit itself has been inhabited for many thousands of years with roots that stretch back to an old Canaanite town.

Let us look at just one village, a village which has had over a third of its land taken by force by the Israeli State to build the Jewish only settlement of Ariel, the village of Kifl Haris.

Kifl Haris was a Canaanite village thousands of years ago and used to be called Tamnit Haris and before that Tamnit Sara – which means ‘a piece of the sun’. The name changed from Tamnit to Kifl after the death of the prophet – Kalib bin Yaffna, who died and was buried in the village. Kalib bin Yaffna is mentioned in the holy texts of all three monotheistic religions of the region and is known as Kifl in the Koran. As the people of the village say, the prophets were sent by God for all peoples. Another prophet, called Yosha (known as Joshua in the Bible) also died and was buried in the village. Their tombs are still regularly visited and honoured by people of the three faiths (although this has been curtailed due to the continual Israeli closures of Palestinian villages and towns). During the time of King Barqoq, a Mameluke, a mosque was built and is dated to 1187.

All the family names of the village have an ancient heritage and descend from the prophets Abraham and Ishmael who belong to all the three religions. These names include:- Jacob, Kaneen, Bouzeiah, Brahim, Saliyeh and Obeid.

In 1940 the village had only 373 people living in it but this has now increased to over 4,000. The village has several well respected elders including 3 men over 100 (Abd il Rahim Hassan Obeid, Mahmoud il Haj Hamid Abu Issa and Sheikh Yusef Hussein Kasim Bouzeiah) and 12 other men over 80.  All of these men were born in the village, have large families, and can trace their families back many generations to this particular village. They have a strong connection to the land.

The land of Kifl Haris continues to be lost as the Israeli colonising process continues apace. The land is being taken for larger ‘settler-only’ roads to serve the Israeli Jewish-only settlers and to build the Wall. However, Palestine has seen many Occupiers come and go in its long and ancient history and the Palestinian people have survived in the past and will continue to survive in the future.

All of the photos for this text can be found at: http://www.womenspeacepalestine.org/ariel_brochure.htm

More reports are being uploaded. Please keep visiting our site!

IWPS House Report No. 59:

24 June,  2004

“Trapped”

The word ‘trapped’ comes to mind quite often here, and I want to take a few moments to explore this feeling.  I often hear people talk about the prison that is Palestine, and the very real fear that the Wall will turn it into even more of a prison.  I feel it more intensely this time around, and I think the feeling of being trapped extends both inward and outward from that place of physical walls.

The idea for this e-mail came while I was crouched in a corner of a house in Deir Ballut the other day with about 25 other people, mostly children and a few women.  We had been standing at the edge of the village after the main part of the demonstration had ended.  We could see army jeeps in the distance, and occasionally they shot tear gas at groups of people who tried to walk through their land to get closer to where the bulldozers were working.  Suddenly, a jeep came speeding down the road from inside the village.  People started screaming and scattering every which way.  The army threw sound bombs first, and many of us scurried into the closest house.  This brings us to the crouching in the corner, where I looked around at the little kids who were crying and covering their ears, and I just thought, ‘We’re trapped.’  The sound bombs were unbelievably loud, and one glass in the middle of the room actually shattered.  I was sure the army would throw sound bombs or gas into the house, or start shooting, but apparently they decided to target the people who didn’t make it inside and had scattered throughout the olive groves instead.

This physical trapping inside houses has been happening more and more recently, especially in Az Zawiya where the border police have been targeting internationals (although they’ve only been holding people for a few hours and not even officially arresting most of them).  We find ourselves moving secretly from place to place, climbing over rocks and walls of locked schools and peeking from roofs to see where the soldiers and police are.  It’s really like a scene from a bad movie, and it’s completely exhausting and sometimes quite frightening.

Trapped.  It happens during the demonstrations as well.  We walk in large groups towards the army, and their military strategy (or is it just force?  Is brutal force a strategy?) often traps us.  They can see us from further than we can see them, they are usually standing at a higher elevation than we are, and, not to be forgotten, they have heavy weaponry.  They shoot gas and rubber bullets, they sometimes come from all directions, they drive around and do their best to provoke the boys into throwing stones.  And sometimes the boys respond, and those of us on the streets are again trapped – trapped between David and Goliath, with both sides willing to use internationals as human shields.  We try to step aside at these times, though not without fear for what will happen to the children.  The kids’ stones are no match for the army’s guns, not to mention the fact that the land and villages are Palestinian, and the Israeli army has no right to be there in the first place.  It’s hard to know what to do when the worldwide media justifies even murder if it’s seen as a response to stone-throwing, and the soldiers know this.

Does it make a difference to have internationals and journalists there watching?  Perhaps not as much as it used to (we are not immune to IDF violence anymore), but I’m convinced there would have been people killed at these demonstrations in the past couple weeks had we (outsiders, cameras, a few white faces) not been there.  Palestinians are trapped in their own skin, unable to escape the racism that leads soldiers to kill them and the world to ignore them or call them terrorists.  Never have I been more acutely aware of the arbitrariness of birth than in the past couple weeks.

Trapped.  I think it was Mustafa Barghouti who I heard say that the concept of negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians is like putting a tiger and a lamb in a room and telling them to negotiate.  Year after year, day after day, Palestinians have been forced into political and human concessions that trap them further while shifting the debate in favor of Israel.  The first and perhaps largest compromise was Palestinians’ acceptance of the state of Israel in 78% of historic Palestine (accepting the occupation of 1948 with the hope that it could end the occupation of 1967).  Now Israel is building the Wall.  The Palestinian response at first was, “Don’t build it,” which then shifted for some people to, “Okay, build a wall, but build it on the 1967 border rather than inside Palestinian land.”  Now, as we stand in places like Iskaka and watch the path of the Wall, I hear Palestinians say, “If you want a Wall around Ariel [25 kilometers east of the 1967 border], build it a few hundred meters over so you don’t steal too much more of our land.”  Concession after concession.  Trapped.

And of course, we are all trapped in our own hearts, minds, and experiences.  I was having trouble sleeping last week, especially when I tried to nap after a demonstration.  Every time I closed my eyes I saw soldiers and tear gas, and every sound I heard made me jump.  I can’t even imagine what Palestinians must feel, and specifically how children deal with the fear.  I also wonder whether Israeli soldiers have nightmares about what they’re doing, and if so, whether that comes from a place of physical fear or moral imperative.  Do they think they have a right to stand in those fields and physically and forcefully prevent people from being on their own land?

There was an article in Ha’aretz (a major Israeli newspaper) a couple days ago that cited some frightening statistics.  A recent poll shows that 64% of Israeli Jews believe that the Israeli government should encourage Israeli Arabs to emigrate.  45.3% actually say they support revoking Israeli Arabs’ right to vote and hold political office.  If this isn’t a case of being trapped in one’s own mind, I don’t know what is.  I say this not to absolve Israeli Jews of their responsibility to unlearn racism, but simply to recognize that we all set traps for ourselves that we find near impossible to escape.

It’s hard to think and feel our way out of all the traps – the physical, emotional, political and ideological.  This is only my first attempt at defining a few of the more obvious traps I’ve noticed in these two weeks.  How to dismantle them?  Well, that’ll have to wait until later.

Shwaye shwaye, as they say here (slowly, step by step).

Text and photos by: Hannah

Copyright © 2004 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

IWPS House Report 60

Children, Artists Paint Mural on Apartheid Wall at Mas’ha

July 18, 2004

For almost nine months, Maisa, Assia, Ishak, Nidal, and Shaad have looked out their front door to see an 8-meter grey wall where their village used to be.  On Sunday, the children worked with muralists from San Francisco’s Break the Silence Mural Project to transform their view into one of hope and freedom.  Where dark concrete loomed, a yellow bird now soars from a lush green valley dotted with red flowers.

The family of Hani Aamer lives surrounded by the Segregation Wall in Mas’ha, Salfit District, West Bank, Palestine.  Their house sits between the two main gates into the village, and they let themselves and others in and out through a gate which sends an alarm to the Israeli army every time it is opened.  Although the Wall in Mas’ha is a fence, last November, the army erected a concrete wall, 24 feet high and 40 meters long, directly in front of the house.  For months, the family was allowed no visitors at all, but recently, after their situation was publicized on Israeli television, the army commander said that they could have periodic visits from family members.  However, all the family’s visitors must be approved by the army.

On Sunday, July 18, 2004, the two visiting muralists came to Mas’ha with members of the International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS) and friends from the neighboring village of Biddia bringing paints and designs to create a mural on the Wall.  Soldiers at the gate stopped the activists and took their passports, saying they had to obtain permission for the visit.  After about 20 minutes, the family was allowed to open the gate for their visitors and the art party began.  Over 20 children and five adults helped to design and paint the mural, which took six hours to complete.

The Aamer house was the site of the last Mas’ha Peace Camp in August 2003.  At that time, forty-five Israeli, international and Palestinian activists were arrested trying to block demolition of the Aamer’s animal shed for the sake of the Wall.

Today’s direct action went peacefully, however, as the army watched but decided not to interfere with the painting.

Susan, one of the visiting muralists, said she and IWPS organized the art party because “The Aamer children have been so traumatized by their imprisonment and the constant military presence in their home.  I wanted to help them reclaim and transform their space.”

“When you come here to paint with the children like this, you make them feel that they can live,” Hani Aamer told her.

Pictures of the mural and its creation can be found on the IWPS website, www.womenspeacepalestine.org/masha_mural.htm. Video of the action is also available from IWPS.

IWPS House Report 61

The Truth Will Prevail

August 6, 2004

A few months ago, Nawaf Souf (Abu Rabia), the District Cooperating Liaison for Salfit District, received a brochure designed to attract new residents to the illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel.  Fluent in Hebrew, he was outraged by what he read in the brochure.

“Welcome to Ariel, Capital of Samaria,” the front cover proclaims.  The second page shows a map in which Ariel is located relative to Jerusalem, Lod, Tel Aviv, Tiberias and Haifa, with no mention of the fact that it lies deep in Palestinian territory, surrounded by Palestinian villages whose land was taken to create housing for its 13,000 permanent residents.  The brochure lists all of the many benefits to new settlers: cheap housing, subsidized services, fast transportation to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Nowhere in the pamphlet does the name of Salfit appear.  But when you drive into Ariel, just before the entrance you will see a sign pointing to “Salfit.”  This is the road, now blocked, which until three years ago, took Abu Rabia each working day from Hares, the village where he lives, to his office in Salfit City in a matter of 15 minutes.  Now on days when he needs his car for work, he drives 45 minutes over a treacherous rocky path.  At one point, the car must traverse three roadblocks, one higher than the last.  If he has passengers, they must get out and walk across the roadblocks (approximately 100 meters), because their weight will make it impossible for the car to pass the earthmounds.

Abu Rabia worked with Angie of IWPS to produce a responsive brochure, telling the real story of Ariel: the story of the lands it is built on, the people who have lived in the area for centuries.  It tells about how the villagers of Refat, Kifl Hares, and Marda sustained themselves in the past, and how they are surviving now.  It describes the new Open University in Salfit, which provides low-cost quality education to youth in the district.  It also describes the impact of the heightening occupation, and of the encroaching settlements.  All of this information is contrasted to the photos and text in the original Ariel brochure.

The new Salfit brochure, “The Truth Will Prevail,” containing more than 50 photos, has just been printed in English and will soon be appearing in Hebrew and Arabic.  IWPS and Abu Rabia will be distributing them to all the embassies and consulates, nongovernmental and human rights organizations and media in Palestine and Israel.  When the Hebrew is available, it will be distributed in the same locations as the original, and even inside Ariel itself, in the hopes of discouraging new immigration to the settlement and informing the settlers about the real cost of their cheap housing and services.

Please look at the brochure online at www.womenspeacepalestine.org/salfitbrochure.htm.  You can also find there the original Ariel brochure in Hebrew, and a faithful translation.  If you would like to get copies of the printed version, and you are in Palestine or Israel, please contact IWPS at 09-251-6644 or by emailing iwps@palnet.com, and we will arrange to get them to you.  A version for distribution internationally is also being printed in the UK and will be available soon from iwps@gn.apc.org.

Please help us to tell the true story of Ariel and Salfit.

*  *  *

Olive Harvest ‏2004‏
International support needed for Palestinian farmers

The olive harvest is one of the key events in the life of every Palestinian villager in the Salfit region.   Since the beginning of the Intifada in September 2000, Palestinian farming families depend almost completely on the fruit of their land for survival.  Olives and olive oil are by far the largest agricultural products in the Palestinian economy. So the olive harvest is the basis of their survival.

The farming communities of Salfit face enormous obstacles to completing their harvest.  Settlers from illegal Israeli colonies in the West Bank, as part of their concerted campaign to drive the Palestinians out of their land, constantly menace, harass and even attack Palestinians working in their groves.  The Israeli army frequently declares olive groves as “closed military zones” and prevents farmers from picking in areas which are close to settlement fences or settler-only roads.

This year, with the completion of a large part of the Apartheid Wall, hundreds of families are isolated from the land which sustains them.   They will not be able to harvest their olives unless the army opens the gates which separate them from their land.  As tens of thousands of dunums of olive trees have been destroyed or confiscated for the sake of the Wall, the farmers desperately need to harvest every olive remaining to them.

During last year’s one month Olive Harvest Campaign, 200 civilians from all over the world and Israeli peace activists joined the Palestinian people to resist this policy of starvation and ethnic cleansing.  Internationals accompanying Palestinian farmers helped ensure access to fields and groves and helped highlight Israel’s war on Palestinian survival in cases where access was violently denied.

Call for international groups to support villages during olive harvest.

The olive harvest begins in Salfit on October 1 and lasts until the end of November.  International Women’s Peace Service is looking for groups of 5 to 7 from different countries who can spend 10 days or more living with an IWPS member in a single village, accompanying and assisting in the Palestinian olive harvest.  IWPS volunteers during this period will have a unique opportunity to share in the lives of Palestinian families and observe a beautiful life-affirming process.

IWPS would help organize nonviolence training and cultural orientation in your country for your group as well as a briefing about the situation and problems you may face.

IWPS will facilitate a trip a week to different places and meet people from the different peace movements (Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals) and a picking day each week in another village. Volunteers will have one free day each week.

For more information, please contact iwpsvolunteers@yahoo.co.uk or see www.iwps.info.  We would like to have mainly women, but mixed gender groups are welcome.  A balanced number of women and men is preferable.

The olive is the lifeline of the Palestinian people.  Come to Palestine and help Palestinians endure by joining them in concert with their land.

IWPS House Report No. 62:

Aug 6th, 2004

“Incursions and Prisoners”

On July 9th the ICJ ruled that the 450 mile separation barrier being built by Israel is contrary to international law and should be dismantled. In the week that followed, an uncomfortable period of quiet descended around Salfit, as the IDF paused in its tracks, awaiting instructions from above before continuing the next phase of construction. This eerie silence was soon to be broken however, and over the past couple of weeks villagers have been subjected to numerous incursions. One incident caused critical injury to an elderly lady, and another culminated in the detention of a 12 year old boy.

On July 21st an army jeep entered Hares from the east and remained in the village for an hour. The usual cycle of retaliation began: young children responding to the provocation of army presence with stones, soldiers responding to stones with sound bombs and tear gas. After three canisters had been fired the crowd dispersed and the army then proceeded to fire into the house of Lamiya Qasim Kleeb, a woman of 70, as she was seated in her stairwell. Kleeb was shot twice in the back and once in the abdomen, sustaining serious damage to her kidneys.

The army refused to allow Kleeb’s husband to accompany her to hospital, so she was driven by the DCL of Salfeet who is also our landlord, to Rafidiya hospital in Nablus, a journey which was delayed as she was made to wait for an ambulance at Zatara checkpoint and then a change of ambulance at Huwara checkpoint – the main checkpoint into Nablus (see HR report no.135).

Over the next couple of days the army returned to Hares several times. Although no more villagers were injured, the army shot more ammunition in the village. IWPS had several conversations with soldiers to try and ascertain the purpose of these visits. The responses were all unanimous: ‘they threw stones at our jeep’ or ‘they threw a stone at us so we had to do something’. When probed about their use of lethal force in response to such incidents, the soldiers appeared nonchalant. ‘They need to learn their lesson’ replied one.

Several days later the army invaded Marda. The army asserted that stones placed in the main road by people from Marda had caused an accident in which a couple of settlers were injured. When questioned they admitted they didn’t know who had out the stones there. Rather than an investigation to find the individuals responsible this sparked a new series of incursions, in which the whole village was punished. The army went in twice in the middle of the night, constructing roadblocks at all the entrances to the village and placing the entire community under closure. In addition to this a number of olive trees were destroyed, hacked into pieces by bulldozers to ensure there would be no chance of replanting (see HR report no 136).

This collective retribution seemed severe enough but the incursions continued, as a distressed Nasfat from Marda, phoned the IWPS house on the evening of the 1st August to hurriedly inform us that the army had invaded his house. As he was speaking a soldier forcibly tried to remove his phone and threatened to throw him over the roof. Carolyn, Ruth and Donia arrived twenty minutes later, moments after the soldiers had left. There were around fifteen children in the courtyard of Nasfat’s house and they jostled around us, filled with nervous energy. Two jeeps had arrived at the house and four soldiers had entered, whilst four remained stationed outside. They proceeded to search every room in the house, asking repeatedly ‘where is the boy who threw the stone?’

As an excuse for a whole variety of human rights abuses, retaliation to stone-throwing is becoming extremely common. We believe that it may be being used to cover something more strategic.  As a local leader and individual with a history of involvement in resistance activities, it is highly possible the army may have targeted Nasfat in order to send a message to the wider community that any resistance to the wall will not be tolerated.

Drinking coffee half an hour later, Nasfat received a call from another family in Marda whose 12 year old boy had been taken by soldiers and driven away in a jeep (see HR report 139).

IWPS sat with the family, took details and contacted relevant people. After about an hour, the noise of a vehicle interrupted us and we went outside to see the jeep which had taken the boy. IWPS stood and witnessed, the family talked to the soldiers and after a period of about half an hour, the boy was released.

Everyone was happy that the child was returned unharmed to his home, but others have been less fortunate. Over the month of July, a number of young men in the Salfit region have been detained and later arrested by the army. IWPS visited families in the villages of Rafat and Az Zawiya and interviewed people whose sons have been taken by the IDF.

In Az Zawiya two sons were taken from a family in the same month. 23 year old Fadi was detained and later arrested at the Huwara checkpoint on the 20th of July, on his way to a hospital appointment in Nablus.

Ten days later, Rami, Fadi’s 24 year old brother and the only other son in the family, was detained and later arrested at the Duke checkpoint on the way to Jericho. He is now in a prison in Qedumim. Both brothers were in employment and provided the main source of income for the family. No-one from the family had ever been in prison before.

IWPS visited a second family in Rafat that now have all their sons in prison and are without income. The father has not been allowed to visit his sons during this time and the mother has experienced obstacles with visits as the authorities often move the boys to different prisons without informing the family.

Two more young men were arrested on the same day as Talal, a 31 year old man named Sabeh who has two small girls and a 28 year old man named Mohammed, who is married with one child. IWPS did not have time to interview Sabeh’s family so do not know of his whereabouts (see HR report 140).

It is hard to imagine the level of insecurity that Palestinian communities in Salfit must feel with regards to the unpredictability of their lives and frequency of these arrests and incursions. To experience army incursions in the early hours of the morning, detentions and arrest of family members amongst the unemployment, restrictions of movement and constant surveillance is a daily part of life for people under this illegal occupation.

Copyright © 2004 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

IWPS House Report No. 62:

Aug 6th, 2004

“Incursions and Prisoners”

On July 9th the ICJ ruled that the 450 mile separation barrier being built by Israel is contrary to international law and should be dismantled. In the week that followed, an uncomfortable period of quiet descended around Salfit, as the IDF paused in its tracks, awaiting instructions from above before continuing the next phase of construction. This eerie silence was soon to be broken however, and over the past couple of weeks villagers have been subjected to numerous incursions. One incident caused critical injury to an elderly lady, and another culminated in the detention of a 12 year old boy.

On July 21st an army jeep entered Hares from the east and remained in the village for an hour. The usual cycle of retaliation began: young children responding to the provocation of army presence with stones, soldiers responding to stones with sound bombs and tear gas. After three canisters had been fired the crowd dispersed and the army then proceeded to fire into the house of Lamiya Qasim Kleeb, a woman of 70, as she was seated in her stairwell. Kleeb was shot twice in the back and once in the abdomen, sustaining serious damage to her kidneys.

The army refused to allow Kleeb’s husband to accompany her to hospital, so she was driven by the DCL of Salfeet who is also our landlord, to Rafidiya hospital in Nablus, a journey which was delayed as she was made to wait for an ambulance at Zatara checkpoint and then a change of ambulance at Huwara checkpoint – the main checkpoint into Nablus (see HR report no.135).

Over the next couple of days the army returned to Hares several times. Although no more villagers were injured, the army shot more ammunition in the village. IWPS had several conversations with soldiers to try and ascertain the purpose of these visits. The responses were all unanimous: ‘they threw stones at our jeep’ or ‘they threw a stone at us so we had to do something’. When probed about their use of lethal force in response to such incidents, the soldiers appeared nonchalant. ‘They need to learn their lesson’ replied one.

Several days later the army invaded Marda. The army asserted that stones placed in the main road by people from Marda had caused an accident in which a couple of settlers were injured. When questioned they admitted they didn’t know who had out the stones there. Rather than an investigation to find the individuals responsible this sparked a new series of incursions, in which the whole village was punished. The army went in twice in the middle of the night, constructing roadblocks at all the entrances to the village and placing the entire community under closure. In addition to this a number of olive trees were destroyed, hacked into pieces by bulldozers to ensure there would be no chance of replanting (see HR report no 136).

This collective retribution seemed severe enough but the incursions continued, as a distressed Nasfat from Marda, phoned the IWPS house on the evening of the 1st August to hurriedly inform us that the army had invaded his house. As he was speaking a soldier forcibly tried to remove his phone and threatened to throw him over the roof. Carolyn, Ruth and Donia arrived twenty minutes later, moments after the soldiers had left. There were around fifteen children in the courtyard of Nasfat’s house and they jostled around us, filled with nervous energy. Two jeeps had arrived at the house and four soldiers had entered, whilst four remained stationed outside. They proceeded to search every room in the house, asking repeatedly ‘where is the boy who threw the stone?’

As an excuse for a whole variety of human rights abuses, retaliation to stone-throwing is becoming extremely common. We believe that it may be being used to cover something more strategic.  As a local leader and individual with a history of involvement in resistance activities, it is highly possible the army may have targeted Nasfat in order to send a message to the wider community that any resistance to the wall will not be tolerated.

Drinking coffee half an hour later, Nasfat received a call from another family in Marda whose 12 year old boy had been taken by soldiers and driven away in a jeep (see HR report 139).

IWPS sat with the family, took details and contacted relevant people. After about an hour, the noise of a vehicle interrupted us and we went outside to see the jeep which had taken the boy. IWPS stood and witnessed, the family talked to the soldiers and after a period of about half an hour, the boy was released.

Everyone was happy that the child was returned unharmed to his home, but others have been less fortunate. Over the month of July, a number of young men in the Salfit region have been detained and later arrested by the army. IWPS visited families in the villages of Rafat and Az Zawiya and interviewed people whose sons have been taken by the IDF.

In Az Zawiya two sons were taken from a family in the same month. 23 year old Fadi was detained and later arrested at the Huwara checkpoint on the 20th of July, on his way to a hospital appointment in Nablus.

Ten days later, Rami, Fadi’s 24 year old brother and the only other son in the family, was detained and later arrested at the Duke checkpoint on the way to Jericho. He is now in a prison in Qedumim. Both brothers were in employment and provided the main source of income for the family. No-one from the family had ever been in prison before.

IWPS visited a second family in Rafat that now have all their sons in prison and are without income. The father has not been allowed to visit his sons during this time and the mother has experienced obstacles with visits as the authorities often move the boys to different prisons without informing the family.

Two more young men were arrested on the same day as Talal, a 31 year old man named Sabeh who has two small girls and a 28 year old man named Mohammed, who is married with one child. IWPS did not have time to interview Sabeh’s family so do not know of his whereabouts (see HR report 140).

It is hard to imagine the level of insecurity that Palestinian communities in Salfit must feel with regards to the unpredictability of their lives and frequency of these arrests and incursions. To experience army incursions in the early hours of the morning, detentions and arrest of family members amongst the unemployment, restrictions of movement and constant surveillance is a daily part of life for people under this illegal occupation.

Copyright © 2004 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work.  Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for nonprofit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

IWPS House Report No. 63:

16 September, 2004

Our Spirit Can’t Be Broken: The Prisoners’ Intifada

Palestinian political prisoners began an open-ended hunger strike on August 15th to highlight the appalling conditions that exist inside Israeli detention centers. They said it was an “Irish” hunger strike, meaning that they were prepared to strike to the death.  By the time the strike was called off on September 3rd when the Israeli authorities agreed to meet many of their demands, 3,000 of the 7,500 political prisoners had gone on hunger strike.

The protest extended beyond the prison walls as Palestinians rallied around the striking prisoners. Solidarity tents were erected near Red Cross offices in Ramallah, Qalqilya, Nablus, Bethlehem, Salfit, Az Zawiya and in other towns and villages in the West Bank and Gaza. Sit-ins and marches were coordinated by the committee for the families of political prisoners and detainees in the West Bank.

The prisoners were protesting the appalling conditions they are forced to live under.  They simply demanded that the Israeli prison authorities respect and enforce internationally recognized rules governing imprisonment. As it stands, the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons is in breach not only of Israeli law but also of international laws regarding the treatment of political prisoners.

The political prisoners demanded that prison guards stop beating them and that they stop shooting tear gas into prison cells. They insisted that the Israeli prison authorities put an immediate end to the practice of keeping prisoners in solitary confinement for long periods of time. Prisoners demanded that that the prison authorities stop strip searching family members who visit them. They also demanded that the restrictions on family visits be lifted and that during visiting hours prisoners and their families are not separated by glass partitions, that they be allowed some physical contact with family members, and that child prisoners be housed separately from adult prisoners. More than 600 Palestinian children are currently being held in adult detention centers.

Salfit City alone has 43 men in prison.  Most of them have not had family visits in over two years.  Some have even been denied contact with their lawyers.  One family in Rafat has two sons in prison; the third killed himself seven years ago.  Another family is still waiting for word on their son, Mohammed, who disappeared two months ago.  A newspaper article referred to the arrest of someone that his family believes was Mohammed, but the Israeli authorities have no record of him.

One of the political prisoners from this area is 19-year-old Rabia Souf, whose family lives downstairs from IWPS.  He has been held for almost two months, since he was arrested at the Jordanian border by the “Shabak” (Israel’s secret police).  He was on his way to France for a meditation workshop with Palestinian and Israeli youth. This workshop teaches one to reach a peaceful state-of- being.

During the first weeks of interrogation, no one was allowed to visit him, not even his lawyer.  His father, Abu Rabia, is a leading advocate of nonviolent resistance to occupation, and an activist with the Israeli-Palestinian partnership, Ta’ayush.  A week after his son’s arrest, after many sleepless nights, he wrote,

“Maybe Rabia was taken for doing something against the occupation: yet it is our right to defend ourselves. Perhaps they are trying to destroy my reputation as a peace activist with Ta’ayush [an Israeli-Palestinian partnership] and other non-violent resistance movements by claiming that my son has thought of or used violence.

“Rabia was taken prisoner on the 26th of July 2004, the day after I was taken prisoner, eighteen years earlier. Rabia was just one and an half years old when I was arrested on the 25th of July 1986. He could only say ‘baba”, father in Arabic. Just as I saw my own father taken to jail, my son saw me as a prisoner.  One hardship follows another and my second son, Sharaf died in the same period. He was one month old.  With me in prison, my wife and son Rabia did not have anything to eat.

“My son Rabia grew up without his father. He was 14 years old when he saw me again; a free man at last, but broken inside. Rabia never received any gifts during any of his birthdays and various feasts, all he had was an absent father and a mother who was struggling to survive on her own.

“I would try to imagine how my son looked, how he lived and how he felt.  Often I would get his school reports. Rabia was a model student, first in his class.  I was so proud of him and yet he only knew from a distance, as I never attended any of his graduations.

“My brother Issa was like a father to my son Rabia while I was in jail all those years.  I could not have asked for a better father than Issa.  Issa enlightened Rabia’s consciousness with dreams of peace, tolerance and building friendships with the Israelis. Yet again, Rabia had to witness another tragedy strike, this time to his second father.  Issa was shot by the IDF on May 15, 2001, to be paralyzed forever.  This horrible and unfair incident traumatized Rabia even more.

“If I did something to deserve this, it is me they should come after, not my son. To have my son in jail is worse for me than having to spend the rest of my life in prison, in solitary confinement.”

It was nearly six weeks after his imprisonment began before Rabia was even allowed to call his family.  He told his three-year-old brother, Sajid, that he is in Jordan, and his mother that he is safer than when he was studying in Nablus.

About the same time that Rabia was taken prisoner, Nour, a 23 year old woman from the Salfit village of Deir Istya, was released from prison. She spent two years in jail. Nour was arrested at the Huwwara checkpoint. She was just beginning to become politically active and the reasons for her arrest remain unclear.

While the vast majority of Palestinian political prisoners are male 106 female political prisoners are being held in Israeli jails. Conditions in women’s prisons mirror those in men’s prisons. Rooms are dirty and often infected with rats and cockroaches. Ventilation in the cells is poor, the heat unbearable. Female prisoners are beaten, abused and fined on a regular basis. The guards regularly enforce collective punishment. Palestinian women are also tear gassed in their cells. Prisoners are routinely denied medical treatment. Two prisoners have given birth inside the Telmond prison in terrible conditions.

IWPS members interviewed several women former political prisoners.  All of them report being tortured during interrogation and abused while in prison. Nour recalled that when menstruating, female prisoners were often prevented from washing or changing their clothes. Her friend Nerva gave birth in prison and her baby remained with her. Nour was particularly affected by the kind of torture inflicted on Nerva and her child and recalled how prison guards made use of the baby to torment her. The guards would separate the baby from its mother. They deprived the infant of food and human contact so that Nerva could hear her neglected infant screaming in another cell.

It was to protest against such forms of torture that Palestinian political prisoners, both male and female, went on hunger strike.

As the strike entered its second week, Israeli officials began denying fasting prisoners medical care, instead barbecuing meat outside their rooms to try to break their spirits.  Electronic Intifada reported, “In accordance with the directions of the Israeli Minister of Health, Israeli hospitals are prevented from allowing striker prisoners in….Israeli prison guards have removed books, newspapers, cigarettes, and salt from the prisons to punish the strikers. (Salt is imperative to stay alive during extended periods of having no food).  Lawyers are prevented from meeting striker prisoners.  Family visitation to these prisoners was halted.”

On September 26 it was reported that prisoners had lost an average of 28.6 lbs. (12.97 kilos).

The Israeli prison authorities denied the Palestinians had made any gains from the strike.

“They didn’t get anything. We didn’t hold any discussions with them at all. They resumed eating unconditionally,” the commander of prisons, Yaacov Ganot, told Reuters.

However, Hisham Abdel-Razek, the Palestinian Minister of Prisoner Affairs, said the prisoners decided to end the strike because most of their demands for better conditions were met.

It remains to be seen the Israeli authorities will implement international humanitarian standards in prisons where Palestinian political prisoners are held.

What is clear is that the prisoners inspired a new wave of resistance in those Palestinians imprisoned only by checkpoints, walls and fences.

CALL TO ACTION:

Though the hunger strike has ended for now, the demands have not yet been met. The Committee for the Families of Political Prisoners and Detainees in the West Bank is seeking the support of the international community in its campaign for better treatment for the 7,500 political prisoners and for themselves. They would like members of the international community to take a few minutes from their busy schedules to send a message of protest to the individuals and institutions that are responsible for adhering to international human rights standards.   Please see http://www.palsolidarity.org/prisoners/sampleprotest.html for a sample letter and list of addresses.

The Israeli government would like the world to forget that it is violating international standards of human rights in its treatment of thousands of political prisoners, just as it would like us to forget that it is still building the apartheid wall, which the International Court of Justice ruled illegal.  We must not forget.  Without our action, nothing will change.

IWPS House Report No. 64:

24 September, 2004

International activists bring message of repentance to West Bank settlers

On Friday morning, September 24, 2004, Jewish IWPS activists offered the settlers of Ariel and Tapuach a new penitential prayer for Yom Kippur.

The women posted copies of an alternative « Vidui » inside Ariel and in areas around Tapuach, naming for each letter of the English and Hebrew alphabet a sin committed by settlers in the name of the Jewish people.  With this revision of the traditional prayer, the activists hoped to communicate to the settlers that their continued residence in the West Bank is an obstacle to peace.

Please find the text of the new prayer in English below.  Visit our website at www.womenspeacepalestine.org/yom_kippur_action.htm for the complete flyer in English and Hebrew, along with photographs.

Ashamnu for Ariel and Tapuach – Yom Kippur 5765
We have Appropriated land
We have Burned olive trees
We have Constructed Apartheid walls
We have Dumped our trash on the village of Marda
We have Erased history of Palestinians
We have Falsified the teachings of the Torah
We have Generalized about Arab people
We have Hated people because of their race
We have Ignored the suffering of our neighbors
We have ‘Judaized’ Palestinian areas
We have Killed children            
We have Lied about our history
We have Manipulated public opinion
We have Neglected our responsibility to work for justice
We have Obstructed the right of refugees to return home
We have Punished collectively
We have Quietly transferred Palestinians from their homeland
We have Restricted free movement of Palestinians
We have Stolen olives from Palestinian farmers
We have Thwarted peace initiatives
We have Unfairly accused people of anti-Semitism
We have Vandalized                        
We have Wrongly educated our children
We have eXpunged Arabic from road signs
We have Yelled racist epithets 

We have promoted Zionism

We have Acquiesced in things we know are wrong
We have Refused to compromise
We have Initiated false beliefs
We have Encouraged home demolitions
We have Lost our humanity

We have Terrorized the Palestinian population in the name of G-d

We have Aggressively prevented Palestinians from working on their land in the name of G-d

We have Persecuted others in the name of our own persecution and in the name of G-d

We have Used guns and laws to facilitate ethnic cleansing in the name of G-d

We have Assaulted in the name of G-d

We have Colonized in the name of G-d

We have Harmed the Jewish people in the name of G-d


For all these sins we have committed against G-d and our Palestinian neighbors, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement.

IWPS House Report No. 65:

12 October, 2004

The Story of the Stones

On Sunday, October 3, Lamiya Qasem Kleeb, 73, of Hares, died of injuries sustained when she was shot in her home two months earlier.  Haji[1] Kleeb, as she was known, was killed in a way that is painfully familiar to every village and city in Occupied Palestine.

Army jeeps had been driving in and out of Hares village all day on July 21.  For the last six months, they have been doing this most days.  Army officials say that this is part of their campaign “to make our presence felt in every village, so that terrorism does not walk free.”  The soldiers often tell us sincerely that they are here because people in Hares, usually teenage boys, throw stones at their jeeps.  When we point out that if they were not here, no one would throw stones at them, they say we do not understand.

The soldiers know that driving slowly through the village will probably result in someone throwing stones at them.  Early that evening, they parked near the school, where a group of kids was playing basketball.  Sure enough, the stones soon began to fly.  The soldiers responded by throwing sound bombs.

Sound bombs, also known as percussion grenades, are plastic explosive devices about the size of a grapefruit, with metal tops that can slice a cheek if they hit someone accidentally or intentionally and which make a loud noise and a small flame when they impact.  Often, the soldiers throw them at every crossroads as they drive through the village, especially late at night.  The District Coordinating Liaison, or DCL, the army officer responsible for protecting the civilian population in this area, says it is army policy to throw sound bombs and tear gas, in order to “pressure the population, 98% of whom just want to live in peace, to stop children from throwing stones.”  He rejected our suggestion that this policy constitutes collective punishment, which is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.

Hearing the sound bombs, people came out of their houses to see what was happening and make sure their children were okay.  Kids and young men threw more stones.  The army threw three canisters of tear gas and people ran into the nearby houses to escape the gas.  The soldiers fired shots into the nearest house, where Haji Kleeb was trying to get her grandchildren off of the stairs.  Seven bullets entered her stairwell, piercing the metal bars of the window and leaving their impact on the cement walls.  Three of them ripped into her body, two through the back and one through the stomach.  Soldiers initially prevented anyone from coming to help her.  Eventually someone was able to drive her out of the village, though her husband was forbidden to accompany them.  The car was delayed at one checkpoint, and she had to wait again to be transferred to an ambulance for the trip into Nablus.  It took her one and a half hours to reach Rafidiya Hospital.  If she had not been stopped, it would have taken at most half an hour.

After two and a half months in hospitals in Nablus and in Israel, Haji Kleeb died on October 3.

Bullets fired in response to stone throwing are a daily occurrence in many parts of Palestine.  It is also quite common for soldiers to provoke stone throwing in this manner.  According to a recent report by the Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq, on five killings in Qarawat Bani Zeid, “[I]t is apparent that the Israeli soldiers, in order to provoke a stone throwing confrontation, entered the village at a time when there would be gatherings of young people, as during the school break.”[2]

The Al Haq report points out that these shootings violate not only international law but also the Israeli army’s own regulations.  “The Israeli soldiers are violating their own open fire regulations, which address two situations: arresting persons who are suspected of having committed a dangerous security-related offence, and defending themselves against mortal danger…The soldier may open fire to injure the attacker, but only him alone.  In both types of cases, it is forbidden to open fire if there is a danger of injuring innocent bystanders.”  Under international humanitarian law, “[I]t cannot be considered proportional to meet stones with lethal bullets.”

In the international media, the mention of stone throwing frequently is enough to obscure the reality that the Israeli army is regularly killing unarmed people who are in no way involved in combat.  The World Union of Jewish Students website, for instance, contains the following assertions:

Accusation: Israel uses excessive force against people, often children, who are merely throwing stones.

Rebuttal: Israel is constantly being accused of a disproportionate reaction… Israel’s responses are designed to neutralise specific threats and, unlike suicide bombings, they are targeted at perpetrators not civilians….

“That is not to say that civilians never die. Regrettably innocents, including children, are occasionally caught in the crossfire… Most Palestinian children have been hurt due to their direct participation in violent confrontations, and a minority of the casualties were the unfortunate result of crossfire or return fire directed towards terrorist targets….Palestinian children and teenagers have been active in the violence against Israel. Schools are closed to allow their participation in demonstrations and riots.”[3]

This is not a right-wing extremist site.  Mainstream news sources mirror the perspective that stone-throwers are combatants.  Captions such as “Palestinian stone-throwing youths take cover backdropped by an Israeli tank and an army bulldozer during an army incursion …,”[4] while technically accurate, also shift the focus from Israel’s military operations against a civilian population to its perception of being always in danger.  The word “clash” is used by everyone from the United Nations to the International Solidarity Movement to denote a confrontation between stone-throwers and the army.  Would we call an encounter between a lion and a chicken a clash?

It is difficult to comprehend how throwing a rock and shooting an automatic weapon can be equated. Throwing stones may not be the best strategy in attempting to struggle for justice, but ignoring the lives that Palestinians must lead under Israeli occupation isn’t any better. In fact, refusing to acknowledge the daily deprivations and humiliations that Palestinians must endure does far more harm than the stones that are tossed.

Since the Al Aqsa Intifada began in September of 2000, over 3,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and 7,480 houses completely demolished.  224,415 dunums (224,415,000 square meters) of Palestinian lands have been seized, much of it for the sake of constructing the Apartheid Wall.  In addition, 73,251 dunums were bulldozed and 1,173,913 trees were uprooted in Gaza and the West Bank. [5] The unemployment rate in the West Bank and Gaza has been averaging 35% combined.[6] And then there are the checkpoints, roadblocks, incursions and settler violence aided and abetted by the army.

Is it so surprising that boys throw stones?

“Alam” (not his real name) is the son of a wealthy family in the southwestern Salfit district, where the Wall construction has already begun.  In near flawless English, he explains why the demonstrations against the Wall so often end in stone throwing.

“I feel when I’m sitting here, I’m just living in a big prison.  We can’t move, we can’t do anything, we can’t go to the store or anything, we can’t go to our college.  We are psychologically destroyed.  I can’t live like that.  Maybe if I’m really supposed to do that, I’m going to throw the stones.

“I don’t have to resort to violence, because there is a very very good peaceful way.  But when you see the soldier just throwing gas, shooting people, when my friend, I was standing behind him and he was just killed, this anger inside me, makes me throw the stones.  You can’t stop and just watch.  I can’t just stand and shout, ‘Stop the Wall, Stop the Wall.’  I have to do something to tell the soldiers I don’t accept what they are doing.”

Those who like to use Jewish history to justify the actions of the Israeli governments might ponder this question:  If a stone thrower is a terrorist, was David a terrorist when he slew Goliath?


[1] “Haji” is a term of respect for an older woman.

[2] Lena Johansson, “The Use of Force as a Response to Provoked Stone Throwing,” Al Haq, 2003

[3] www.wujs.org.il/activist/ features/campaigns/terror.shtml; emphasis ours.

[4] www.cbsnews.com/stories/ 2004/03/08/world/main604722.shtml

[5] Source:  www.miftah.org

[6] Source:  www.palestine-pmc.com

IWPS House Report No:66.

DECEMBER 2004

There have been only the three of us here for the last week of December, and before that only two, Ridwana and Fatima, following the arrest of Kate at the Bil’in demonstration. We are two of us, new to this land. Not new to the idea of oppression and occupation but new to Palestine.

In the short time that we have been here the Occupation has impressed itself upon us. We have experienced the border, the bridge, the soldiers, the Wall, the check points, the road blocks, the settlers and the settlements. We have marched together with Palestinian villagers protesting the construction of the Apartheid Wall, seen and heard of the impact the Wall has on the lives of the people of this spiritual land, walked through the olive groves and touched the trees that are hundreds of years old, stood next to shabbabs throwing stones while being shot at with tear gas and rubber bullets by Israeli occupation forces. We have had a lot to internatlise and try to understand in these weeks and now as we move into 2005, a new year of occupation for the Palestinian people, let us share with you our stories and the images we have seen. Stories of injustice and cruelty, and stories of courage and dignity

There is the story at the Jordanian border of a Palestinian grandmother, bent over and walking with a stick being shouted at and shoved by a 16 year old Israeli passport control official. A beautiful Palestinian mother crying and begging to be allowed in with her children at the same border crossing and being refused. The feeling of frustration experienced by Ridwana while sitting and waiting and waiting and sitting for 5 hours without anyone telling her anything. Of being denied entry on the first day – returning the next with every conviction to enter, of being interrogated for 2 hours, waiting and sitting and sitting and waiting for another 4 hours – and then finally after two days being allowed in! The sense of helplessness that Fatima felt when she had to wait for Ridwana in Jerusalem for two days.The sight of an old man in Jayyous weeping when an olive sapling was handed to him. The laughing children playing football and cricket in the village streets and rushing over to shake hands with us. All these stories and images and more, much more are what life in Occupied Palestine is about.

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The demonstration in BIL’IN

On the 14 December, Kate, Fatima and Ridwana participated in the demonstration against the construction of the Apartheid Wall in a village called Bil’in, between Budrus and Ramallah. This Wall that is being constructed to ‘protect’ a settlement. A Wall that will steal Palestinian land encroaching on olive groves that for hundreds of years belonged to the villagers. A Wall that will make living a normal life in Bil’in impossible.

Internationals and Israeli anarchists marched with the men, women, teenage girls and the shabbabs. The shabbabs dressed in the Palestinian flag, ran into the valley and up the hill towards the soldiers. The negotiators talked to the soldiers. The demonstration was peaceful until one of the soldiers started beating a Palestinian. This unprovoked act of aggression resulted in a few Palestinians getting injured, and three internationals being arrested. There were the sounds of screams as the soldiers began to use tear gas and sound bombs against the peaceful demonstrators; and then there was news that Kate had been arrested. Ridwana sprained her ankle as she ran towards the village. There was an ‘onion boy’ who ran to everyone giving them pieces of onion that helps with the tear gas. The soldiers followed the retreating demonstrators, stopping short only at the entrance to the village, before retreating back to the other side of the valley. Ridwana and Fatima sat on the hill with the villagers and other internationals looking down the valley at the hill beyond – looking at the young boys throwing stones against tear gas and rubber bullets. The trauma of the past two hours came flooding in for them both. Ridwana began to cry out of anger and a feeling of helplessness and a 24 year old journalist from Ramallah who had lost two brothers to the Intifada, took her hand and told her that she didn’t need her tears – she needed her strength and courage – to help her and her people fight the Occupation. ‘I can tell you what I want in one word’ she said, ‘FREEDOM’.

On Christmas Day…

The day started with the mellodious ‘song’ of the muezzin calling for the Fajr prayer. We were in Talluza, a village north of Nablus nestled between the rolling hills of olive groves of Al-Badhan and Asira Ash Shamaliya. It was raining and very windy and while we wished to stay a little longer in bed we knew the soldiers would not be resting and there were many students who would be needing to cross the flying checkpoint that had been causing fear and anguish to the residents of Talluza and the neighbouring villages. One week to the day, a curfew had been imposed on Talluza and food and medicine supplies were being withheld. So, Penny (the ‘singing London Lass’ so named because of the night when facing an army invasion in Talluza she had broken into song ‘doe a deer a…’ to announce her presence!), Renee and Ridwana were assigned checkpoint watch to ensure that students were not unnecessary detained at these checkpoints and were able to go to university. The children in the house were still asleep so we tried to be very quiet, brushing our teeth and putting our clothes on. Layer over layer over layer. It was freezing cold! Penny asked Ridwana for some toothpaste and in the shadow of the early morning light she mistakenly handed her a can of deodorant spray, which she then sprayed on her toothbrush thinking that it was ‘some new kind of toothpaste from South Africa’. We tried, but failed to laugh softly!

The streets of Talluza were so quiet. Mist enveloped the rolling hills and the rain splattered quietly around us. The rising sun provided light but no warmth. We walked for half an hour down the hill singing Christmas carols in the rain. After an hour and a half of singing and waiting in the rain, we decided that today there would be no soldiers and no checkpoints. Thank God! “Maybe they have decided to leave the villagers alone”, we said hopefully and we headed back to the village.

Climbing up a steep hill, our shoes dressed in a thick sticky red mud, a Bedouin couple shouted and gestured to us to come and have some ‘Chai!’ and not walk in the rain. Who could refuse an invitation like that! We were led into a tent – and suddenly surrounded by goats and kids and chicken. The kids were a few days old and absolutely beautiful! A small fire and the absolute generosity and love of out hosts provided the warmth we needed. They could speak no English and we spoke no Arabic. Yet we laughed, and ‘talked’. We were given a feast for breakfast and goats cheese that was made from a goat that stood in front of us! These people were so poor – yet so rich! We used a dictionary to explain that today was Christmas and that Penny and Renee were Christians. What peace and love and warmth! We were then given tasbeehs (rosary’s) as Christmas gifts. We stayed for two hours and we were really happy. Penny and Renee had had their ‘Christmas breakfast’.

Heading back into the village we were greeted by a jeep of soldiers! They wanted to know where we were going and Penny yelled out ‘to Bethlehem – its Christmas’! but they knew and we knew. They had come to set up the checkpoint and we had come to observe and ensure that the villagers were not unnecessarily harassed or violated! That’s right – “unnecessarily”. And that meant were not beaten up or kept waiting for more then three hours – since in Palestine most other violations had become normal!

Checkpoint watch on that day was easy. Penny didn’t come back with us but Ahmed did. One soldier knowing exactly why we were there, tried convincing us that just as we were doing our job by teaching English in the village, he was also “just doing his job” by protecting his people! Ridwana said “how can it be the same – you have a big gun and I don’t! And who are you protecting your people from? – Old people! Woman! Little kids!” From his sheepish look we knew in some way he realised just how ridiculous he sounded, but we also knew that this 17 year old completely believed that he was protecting his country, his land! And then, the commander asked if we wanted to take photos with them! And when we asked why, he said “’cause we’re soldiers”

We sat and watched for three hours these four not over 18 year old boys enjoying humiliating the villagers by having them get out of their cars and walk to them to show their id cards. All of the villagers waved and greeted us. Some even stopped and gave us fruit. The villagers knew who we were and were grateful that we were there.

The soldiers continued to drive through the streets of Talluza that afternoon – round and round and round. And in between all of that the children played, screaming ‘jesh, jesh (army, army)!’ every time they went past. The children were so excited by us being there and we were so excited that we could play with them. All you heard all the time was ‘Hallo! Watz your name’. The voices of the dear children of Talluza saying ‘Hallo! Watz your name’…

The girl from Gaza

On the 28th we met Khuloob on the streets of Ramallah. She was young, beautiful and could speak English. Khuloob is from Gaza, but has not been able to return for six years. This 23 year old student at Beir Zeit has not seen her family for six years. The rest of her family is dispersed with members in Germany, Egypt and the US. A microcosm of the Palestinian Dispora. Khuloob laughed a lot, and when two days after we met her she came to visit us in Hares, all she could say was ‘why Hares! Why Hares!’ Khulood cooked for us and we sat talking, and laughing and she was telling us about her life as a 23 year old Palestinian woman. We went up to the roof. It was such a beautiful and peaceful night yet we knew that to the left and right of us, all around in countless little villages, harmless youths were being arrested and hundreds of families terrorised. There below us was highway 505 that linked Ariel settlement to Tel Aviv. An after 7pm ‘Israeli only’ highway. A highway ‘protected’ by the yellow lights and red rooftops of settlements. Seemingly unthreatening – yet like the Wall a symbol and reminder of the on-going Occupation and theft of Palestinian land. We stood on that roof, all quiet – each lost in their own thoughts. And then Fatima said softly, ‘maybe in our death we will understand the injustice of it all, ‘cause I’m never going to understand it in this life’.

The Demonstration in Jayyous

On the last day of the year, over three hundred International activists and Israelis marched with the people of Jayyous a village near Qalqilia north of the West Bank in an anti wall protest. This fence separated the village from the settlements. Hundreds of dunums of Palestinian owned land had been stolen to build these settlements and now the Israeli government is planning on expanding the settlements and stealing even more Palestinian owned land. This has economically crippled the agricultural dependent community in Jayyous.

Disengagement in Gaza and settlement expansion in the West Bank!

After the Friday noon prayer the protestors marched towards the wall from both sides. An Israeli friend of Ridwana’s from Tel Aviv who was marching on the other side called her and said, ’please be careful! There are over 18 jeeps with army and border police. I hope I see you at the open gate!’ But the protestors were not allowed to meet at the open gate. Only two of the Isreali protestors were allowed to come to the other side and hand over a small olive tree to an old Palestinian man as a sign of rejection to the wall and an oath of cooperation to dismantle the wall. This symbolic gesture spoke a thousand words. The protestors also called upon all the peace workers in the world to work against the wall, and urged the soldiers to refuse to serve in the occupied territories. We were all deeply moved by this show of non-violent resistance to the Occupation and to the Apartheid Wall. No sound bombs or tear gas or rubber bullets! And so out of respect we interviewed the old man who had been handed the olive sapling and this was his story:

Tawfeek Salim’s Story.

On the 31st of December 2004, a 56 year old man from the Palestinian village of Jayyous was given a token of the life he had lost because of the brutal occupation of his land. To many of the international activists who saw the handover of the olive tree, brought through the guarded gate by two Israeli sympathisers as a sign or rejection of the Wall, it was a very moving moment, but for Tawfeek Salim himself, and for his brothers and sons and their wives and children how much more significant must this moment have been?

Tawfeek Salim’s story is, we know, the story of too many Palestinian families whose lives have been destroyed by the building of the Apartheid Wall and the continual confiscation of thousands and thousands of dunums of their land and the destruction and uprooting of hundreds of thousands of their olive trees.

When the Israeli Authorities began to confiscate land from the Jayyous villagers, the family of Tawfeek Salim was totally devastated. Eighty six dunums of land were taken from his family and a total of 750 olive trees. But the effect of this loss to Tawfeek Salim and his six brothers cannot be measured by statistics alone. For their connection to the land goes back centuries, and through the sale of olives and olive oil, Salim and his brothers could provide for their families.

But since the wall has been built, cutting the farmers off from their land, this source of income has completely ended. Tawfeek Salim spoke to us of the heart-break he felt when it became clear he would not see his farm again. He spoke of how there would be no one to water the vegetables and how they would die, and of how there would be no one to harvest the olive trees in Autumn. He spoke of his wealth being taken from him and as he spoke I realised that this wealth was something far deeper than a wealth based on monetary value alone. It was the wealth of life taken from him and his people when the humiliating conditions of the Occupation were forced upon them.

There have been a number of demonstrations opposing the land-confiscations held in Jayyous over the past year, and while Tawfeek is deeply grateful for the support his village has received at such times, he is also very aware of how little he has recovered in terms of his livelihood.

“It is good to see all these people.” He said. “We are happy for you to come. But for me, what do I have? Nothing, I have nothing but this one tree.” He spoke very quietly but I had seen the emotion on his face when he had embraced that olive tree, and I knew how hard it was for him to speak about it.

He then went on to tell us how now he must live in a very small village house with three dependent sons and one dependent daughter, and of how he knows what difficulties they will face in trying to build a future for themselves.

But in the end he knows that they will find a way because they have dignity.

“The dignity of a people is a strong thing.” He said as he prepared to climb the hill back to his village. He carried in his arms that ancient symbol of peace, the olive sapling, and as he left I wondered at the way in which the Olive Tree had been so cruelly manipulated by the Israeli Authorities into becoming a devastating weapon against the Palestinian people….

The New Year…

We were tired and hot by the time we had climbed back up to Jayyous village. The end of 2004 was approaching and we wanted to be in the Old City. The old streets and people beckoned us. We left Jayyous for Jerusalem, and as the sun was setting on 2004 we found ourselves at the Qalandia checkpoint forcing our way through the chaos, and then, finally on to the bus that would lead us to the magical Damascus Gate.

Hours later we were sitting on the balcony of the Austrian Hospice in the Old City. It was quiet and beautiful. There above us were the many minarets and spires competing for Gods attention – wanting to touch the sky first.

So we watched in the New Year…

In the morning of the first day of 2005 we all walked to Al-Aqsa listening to the ‘song’ of the muezzin for the Fajr salah. Renee waited at the gate, so much wanting to see the Dome and wanting to see the prayer but of course not being allowed to enter. Fatima and Ridwana were stopped by the guards at the gate and asked to pray ‘Surah Fateha’ to prove that they were Muslim. In an act of her defiance Fatima asked the soldier whether he knew how to pray Surah Fateha, and he looked at her with this rather surprised look on his face. Like the army and the border police and the police he was the Face of the Occupation. Of course we passed, we were the privileged ones…but what of the West-Bankers? What of Mohamed from Ramallah who spoke so sadly of the fact that he had not been able to pray in Al-Aqsa for six years? And of the thousands such as he? What would this new year bring for them? For all the people of Palestine?

These thoughts haunted us all day as we wandered the winding streets of the old city; bursting with life, bustling and busy, filled with vibrant colour and beauty. We experienced Life in its pure existence and thought of how this is the only weapon the Palestinians have to resist the Occupation. Life… And it is a powerful one….

Copyright © 2004 by IWPS. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects IWPS’s right to future publication of our work. Non-profit, activist, and educational groups may circulate these reports and photos (forward them, reprint them, translate them, post them, or reproduce them) for non-profit uses consistent with the goals of IWPS and the Palestinian liberation movement. Please do not change any part of it without permission.

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